Country Strong

Women in country music are survivors: true-grit like Loretta Lynn, who married at 13, had four kids before she was 19, picked up a guitar at 24. This Hollywood weepie might have ‘strong’ in the title but it misses the point with its portrait of a Grammy-winning alcoholic country superstar in meltdown – played from the heart but unpersuasively by Gwyneth Paltrow. Her character is apparently based on Britney Spears: prone to onstage ramblings, stints in rehab followed by a comeback tour – orchestrated by her manager-husband (Tim McGraw, a country star turned actor).

There is an interesting movie to be made about this toxic marriage: she’s a messy drunk, diva-ish and needy; he pulls her out of rehab too early. Is this because his prize cow isn’t milking well? Or from a heartfelt belief that she is most happy on the road? The question is never really answered. Instead, in waltzes an ambitious little missy (Leighton Meester from ‘Gossip Girl’), a young, pretty rival dying to sink her claws into Gwyneth’s career and man. ‘I’ve been ready for this since I was four and a half years old,’ she announces – one banality in a script full of them.

Paltrow gives it her best but is so conspicuously doing country. We’re meant to believe she has spent half her life staring into a vodka bottle, but she glows like she’s just stepped out of a yoga retreat. The actors sing for real: cheesy-as-hell songs which give the whole thing a whiff of vanity. None of which is a patch on Sissy Spacek  as Lynn in 1980’s ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’.

Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday March 25 2011
Duration: 112 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Shana Feste
Screenwriter: Shana Feste
Cast: Gwyneth Paltrow
Garrett Hedlund
Tim McGraw
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