User Score
6.1

Generally favorable reviews- based on 31 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 16 out of 31
  2. Negative: 7 out of 31
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  1. Jan 11, 2011
    5
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. "Country Strong" is country wrong. Sloppy writing gives savvy movie-cum-music fans the impression that this demographically challenged film doesn't know the difference between Nashville and Austin, or in other words, the schism which divides contemporary country music into its inimical sides: mainstream and alternative, just like rock, or any number of musical genres. Alt-country, an all-encompassing label first attached to Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy's pioneering band Uncle Tupelo(their debut album "No Depression" serves as the namesake for the influential magazine that covers the scene), is an industry term which refers to country music made outside of Nashville; it's an antidote to the pop-oriented, ready-to-crossover hits which litter country radio. Sometimes a deconstruction(Lambchop), sometimes a revival(Freakwater), alt-country is a genre wide-ranging enough to please a multitude of disparate fans, all united in their growing disenchantment with the industry's pandering of the adult contemporary market. Alt-country pledges allegiance to Hank Williams. So what side is Kelly Canter(Gwyneth Paltrow) on? Well, the Grammy people don't normally hand out their statuettes alt-country luminaries such as Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams, let alone, six of them, which is how many gilded gramophones the recovering alcoholic has won over her Shania Twain-like career. On her comeback tour, Kelly is joined by two upstarts: Beau Williams(Garrett Hedlund), a rehab counselor whom she's "dating", and Chiles Stanton(Leighton Meester), a former beauty queen, disparagingly referred to as "Country Barbie" by Beau, just before she hits the stage and gets discovered by Kelly's manager/husband(Tim McGraw), despite being a diamond in the rough. She's coal, actually, but Country Barbie just happens to be a knockout. The moviegoer presumes that Chiles wants Kelly's career, that she will overtake the aging veteran and ascend from opening act to headliner, a modern day Eve(the understudy, played by Anne Baxter, in "All About Eve"), but as it turns out, the moviegoer would presume wrong. When Kelly plays her last show and the two performers go backstage to discuss their future plans, "Country Strong" does Kelly wrong, unwittingly, the very moment Bo discourages Chiles from recording the songs for her upcoming album. Too "bubble gum" for his tastes. His dismissal of the girl's careerism seems categorical, an indication that Beau owns an alt-country aesthetic and doesn't respect the career of his mentor. He's returning to the underground, away from the limelight, where the idealistic singer/songwriter can hone his craft in front of smallish bar crowds, and perhaps become a latter-day X, a Generation Y John Doe and Exene Cervenka(if Chiles listens to his advice and joins him). And yet, when the ungrateful snot performs, even as a total nobody during the opening credits, without having the pressure to cater towards the mainstream tastes of Kelly's fanbase, he sounds less like Jason Ringenberg of Jason and the Scorchers, or Woody Guthrie(and just about everybody in between both sides of the alt-country spectrum), than a multi-platinum selling artist such as Garth Brooks. Does the filmmaker realize that Beau lacks indie cred? A smarter film about country music would cast the would-be cowpunk as a Jack White-type, somebody who would encourage the aging legend to reject Nashville values and make an all-out roots album(similar to Loretta Lynn's "Van Lear Rose", produced by The White Stripes frontman himself), which would add creative tension to the preexisting atmosphere of marital discord between Kelly and her commercially-minded husband. Hedlund's character is too diffuse; you're never sure what his motivations are, because there's a disconnect between his musical values and songs. If Beau is so disenchanted with the state of country music, why does he go on a tour which will compromise his stance that the genre is something you chew and throw away? If it's solely out of concern for the potentiality that Kelly's sobriety could lapse, then his speech to Chiles should address the outpatient's self-destructive behavior, not the demerit points of mainstream country music. Does Beau sell out, then change his mind about the Nashville machine? Does "Country Strong" have a country clue? When Chiles inevitably heads out west to be with Beau, she's denigrating all what Kelly accomplished by choosing to be a singer-songwriter, as opposed to being a superlative interpreter. As it turns out, the character that Meester plays is diffuse, as well. One minute she's stealing a surefire hit away from her idol, and then the next minute, the Carrie Underwood wanna-be wants to be the next Neko Case. All this depth that the filmmaker instills in both Beau and Chiles(their rejection of fame and fortune) has the unfortunate effect of making Kelly seem shallow. Country weak instead of "Country Strong". Expand
  2. Apr 18, 2011
    5
    Because I had heard such terrible things about this movie, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Paltrow was kind of adorable as a drunk, country music star, and the rest of the characters were likable in some way. However, if you want a great movie in this specific genre, check out "Walk the Line" - it has more depth and storyline; since this was slightly predictable and cliche.Because I had heard such terrible things about this movie, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Paltrow was kind of adorable as a drunk, country music star, and the rest of the characters were likable in some way. However, if you want a great movie in this specific genre, check out "Walk the Line" - it has more depth and storyline; since this was slightly predictable and cliche. Still, not a total waste of two hours. Expand
Metascore
45

Mixed or average reviews - based on 30 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 7 out of 30
  2. Negative: 7 out of 30
  1. Reviewed by: Simond Braund
    Mar 21, 2011
    60
    C&W lovers will lap it up - look out for some stellar Nashville cameos - and there's big-lunged uplift to see you through the cornball plot turns.
  2. Reviewed by: Kimberley Jones
    Jan 12, 2011
    67
    Hedlund's got a hell of a voice, rotgut-ragged, and whether he's crooning or wooing, whatever he's selling, and no matter how cornpone, I'm buying.
  3. Reviewed by: Rene Rodriguez
    Jan 12, 2011
    50
    In Country Strong, the Oscar-winning Paltrow gets upstaged and outacted by the kid from "Tron" and the snotty brat from "Gossip Girl." Who'd have thought?