No rhinestones on this cowboy song

2011-04-22 09:19

Film: Country Strong (Ster ­Kinekor)
Director: Shana Feste
Featuring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw, Garrett Hedlund, Leighton Meester
Rating : 6/10

Of the four leads in Country Strong, the only one that’s a singer first, country heavyweight Tim ­McGraw, is peculiarly the only one who doesn’t sing. Nominated for best original song at the Golden Globes and the Oscars this year, the film’s theme song Coming Home is probably the best thing about it.

The film – written and directed by Shana Feste – is annoying because it has so much promise but fails to deliver. It attempts to tackle the juggernaut that is country music in America and its problems – substance abuse, tour fatigue and above all, maintaining a fan base at great personal cost.

What could have been a fascinating exploration of the life-cycle of a country music star, is instead a muddled love story that tries to be a biopic.

Gwyneth Paltrow is Kelly Canter, the new country equivalent of ­Loretta Lynn or Patsy Kline, who is at the tail- end of her detox ­programme and facing a huge comeback tour – courtesy of her husband and manager, James ­(McGraw).

Garrett Hedlund is Beau, a talented young country singer, whom Kelly takes under her wing and wants on tour with her.

The fourth piece of the plot puzzle is Leighton Meester as Chiles, a beauty queen-turned-singer whom James thinks is the next big thing. While Kelly’s star fades, Chiles’ glows ever brighter. With a better plot this film could well have ­captured the bittersweet essence of this?changing-of-the-guard moment.

Feste though doesn’t get it right on any score. The love story is a mess and when she finally decides on how to resolve the chaos, the audience reached the watch-gazing and audible-sighing phase.

As for the performances – ­Hedlund is charming as the character who maintains his integrity best, while Meester is believable as the airhead who wants to be a star. I have always thought Paltrow over-rated and here again she manages only to externalise her character’s pain into a pouty frown – and that’s it. She doesn’t excite the audience’s sympathy.

McGraw essentially plays himself, a country music industry heavyweight, but he’s wooden without a firmer director, which he had in The Blindside.

As a loud and proud country music fan, I will be adding the soundtrack to my collection, but the film is a forgettable tangle of “could’ve beens” and “if onlys” that conspire to make this aimless story one of the most irritating I have seen in a while.

If you need a country music movie fix you’d be better off taking another look at the 1980 classic A Coal Miner’s Daughter, for which Sissy Spacek won the best actress Oscar.

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