If you’ve got a hankering to see “Country Strong,” take a pillow to the theater. It’s the perfect opportunity to catch up on some lost sleep. From beginning to end, this film just rips off other movies, as well as its audience.
In this comeback-kid flick, Gwyneth Paltrow plays Kelly Canter, country-western superstar who’s fallen from grace and landed in rehab. Her husband/manager, James, played by Tim McGraw (who surprisingly doesn’t sing a note), signs her out early, primarily due to greed. He wants Kelly back on the circuit — ready or not. Meal ticket aside, we’re supposed to believe he really loves her.
Rehab orderly Beau (cutie pie Garret Hedlund) quits his day job and goes on tour with Kelly. Ironically, he too, is a country singer. Although Kelly loves James, she also loves Beau (it’s a superstar thing). Beau loves Kelly, until young little upstart Chiles (Leighton Meester) enters the picture. It doesn’t get any sudsier than this even on daytime TV.
“Country Strong” suffers from a syrupy screenplay by its director, Shana Feste (“The Greatest”). Had that not been a major issue, the film may have soared. Blatantly stealing scenes from “Walk the Line” (the June Carter/Johnny Cash duet) and “Crazy Heart” (heaving into a trash can backstage) detracts from her credibility as a professional. It undermines Paltrow’s fabulous singing voice and some impressive camerawork.
Given Kelly’s propensity for breaking down crying at any given moment, the rivers of mascara running down her cheeks get old, really fast. Waterproof mascara has been around for decades. Minor things such as that add up to bothersome predictability throughout the film.
It’s sad when an amazing cast and superb score are wasted on such a sorry script. “Country Strong” would have been more effective as the source for a song rather than an endlessly boring movie.