The reviews are in for 'Country Strong' are in and they are ... well, not so strong.
The film -- in limited release now; expands Jan. 7 -- follows Kelly Cantor (Gwyneth Paltrow), a beloved but troubled country music star attempting to rehabilitate herself, her marriage and her career.
In the past, country music movies like 'Coal Miner's Daughter' and 'Crazy Heart' have done really well with audiences, but it seems from these reviews that 'Country Strong' misses the mark.
This faltering doesn't seem to be at the hand of the film's stellar cast, though; Paltrow and her co-star and on-screen husband/manager Tim McGraw both step out of their comfort zones. (Audiences were anxious to hear her truly sing and to see him truly act.) Younger talent Garrett Hedlund ('TRON: Legacy'), who plays up-and-coming singer Beau, and Leighton Meester ('Gossip Girl'), who plays Chiles, another up-and-comer, also seem to be able to pull their weight, with Hedlund making the most impact.
It seems that the movie veers off the right path due to its script and editing, but it still appears to be a fun film for country music fans. To find out more, read our reviews roundup for 'Country Strong.'
USA Today: "Paltrow is a good singer and performer, effectively conveying her character's emotional vulnerability. But the story seems either badly edited or under-written. What is Kelly's back story? Has she struggled with addiction for a long time? Why does the couple avoid discussing the elephant in the room? McGraw's aloof character is even less developed. Consequently, it's tough to feel much for either of them. It's Hedlund who makes the strongest impression. He's got a laid-back, whiskery charm, convincing as a singer with integrity and heart. Meester also shows she can do more than play one of 'Gossip Girl''s privileged Manhattan socialites."
HitFix: "This is ostensibly Paltrow's show, but she disappears offstage for significant chunks of the movie while we deal with the lives and ambitions of Beau and Chiles, and that winds up being not such a bad thing. Paltrow understands the show-biz side of the character – the scene where Kelly tells Chiles everything a young singer should know is a highlight, and she has a lovely moment performing for a young fan with leukemia – but there are places when her attempts at being a good-ol'-gal play like Grace Kelly trying to portray Ma Kettle. Paltrow's a talented actress, but I didn't buy her singing on a bar for Hell's Angels or drunkenly screaming while wearing panties, a bra, and smeared mascara."
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The Hollywood Reporter: "It's hard to synopsize this movie because it sounds even worse than it actually is. What relieves the utter crassness of the story are quite a few songs performed well by the two youngsters. You wish that Paltrow's character wasn't forever collapsing onstage so she can sing her heart out too. Near the climax, she finally gets to strut her stuff musically. But why does the movie hold this back? ...'Country Strong' feels like a script that needed a Page One rewrite. Ideas and character relationships are poorly thought out. Motivations are hard to pin down as characters seemingly abandon their own best interests."
LA Times: "It's a very tough arena that writer/director Shana Feste has chosen to play in, given such classic movies and classic performances as Sissy Spacek in 'Coal Miner's Daughter,' Robert Duvall in 'Tender Mercies,' Jessica Lange in 'Sweet Dreams,' Reese Witherspoon in 'Walk the Line' and Jeff Bridges in last year's 'Crazy Heart.' The roles won Oscars for all but Lange, who did get a nomination. When the starting point is a world in which even the toughest guys wear their hearts on their sleeves, the trick for filmmakers is how to walk the line without getting stuck in the muck, and that is a problem the filmmaker hasn't yet figured out. 'Country Strong' is Feste's second film, and she infuses it with an earnestness that swings between too too much and appealing, the same earnestness that swamped her filmmaker debut last year with 'The Greatest.' But this time, in the more nuanced moments (and there are some of those), she has a way with dialogue that could turn her into a force if she can ever get the balance right and send the obvious packing."
Variety: "Like an unabashedly corny tune delivered with enough warmth and sincerity to still hit the sweet spot, 'Country Strong' looks derivative on paper but plays out with a startling depth of feeling -- no small feat, considering it feels pieced together from snippets of every behind-the-scenes meller ever spun. At times resembling a Texas-touring 'All About Eve,' the film also recalls last year's 'Crazy Heart,' with its aching lament for a musician brought low by booze and bad luck. Feste has said the story was inspired by Britney Spears' media woes; intended or not, parallels to the troubled personal life of country star Mindy McCready are also there for the taking."