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Monday, June 20, 2011

Kelly Canter (Gwyneth Paltrow) plays a song
for a sick, young boy in
Country Strong.

2 Stars

A film's ending is often everything. Take Shana Feste's Country Strong. While I definitely wouldn't call it a great movie, it's reasonably engaging for most of its running time. But it totally goes off the deep end with 15 minutes or so left, leaving a wholly unsatisfying taste in your mouth. And it's a shame because the film really isn't all that bad otherwise. Sure, it's cliched as hell and doesn't say or do anything that Crazy Heart didn't cover in a fresher, more satisfying way in 2009. But the songs are well-written, and the performances aren't half-bad either. It's just that ending. It's terrible, terrible, terrible.

Kelly Canter (Paltrow) is one of country music's biggest superstars, but she's going through a rough patch. After a disastrous show in Dallas in which she got drunk, fell off the stage, and lost her unborn child, she entered rehab. Her husband and manager (Tim McGraw) is having trouble forgiving her after the Dallas incident and the strain of their marriage is causing them both a host of personal, professional, and public image problems. So Kelly shacks up with Beau (Garrett Hedlund), an up-and-coming country crooner who gets invited to accompany Kelly on tour. Also accompanying them is Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester), a former pageant queen who has some star potential but freezes up every time she's on stage.

Country Strong is at its best when Kelly is at her best. Like with most recovering addicts, she has some good moments and some bad ones. When she's struggling, the melodrama is almost too much to handle. But when she's writing music or visiting a sick child, the film is pleasant and sweet. The bad moments slightly outweigh the good, but there aren't any egregious issues I had until the conclusion. Did I mention yet that it's a horrible conclusion?


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