It’s Wednesday, hump day. The week is half over, and the weekend is just around the corner, so what is a dedicated movie watcher to do? In this weekly column, AngieBee makes her suggestions on what movies you should check out to get you through the rest of the week.
PLOT: Soon after a rising young singer-songwriter (Garrett Hedlund) gets involved with a fallen, emotionally unstable country star (Gwyneth Paltrow), the pair embarks on a career resurrection tour helmed by her husband/manager (Tim McGraw) and featuring a beauty-queen-turned-singer (Leighton Meester). Between concerts, romantic entanglements and old demons threaten to derail them all.
REVIEW: AngieBee here with this week’s Hump day movie COUNTRY STRONG. I’ve been reluctant to watch this movie for several reasons. The main one being my fear of the ending. You see, J spoiled it (not sure where he gets all his info) way in advance and it scared me. That knowledge tempered my wanting to see STRONG in the theater …but I’m glad my loving husband knows how I like my endings. I want and need the characters to end happily ever after and I am not ashamed to admit it. A movie where the main characters don’t end up together and one (SPOILER ALERT!!!) commits suicide is just not my cup of tea.
That having been said, I did ultimately get around to seeing STRONG. On cable. In the comfort of my own home where a bum ending might not affect me as much it would if I had seen it in public. And guess what? I loved it. The movie, not the ending. The end is still a bummer but more on that in a second.
Me enjoying the movie was pretty shocking but in the end I sorta did get the happy ending I so enjoy and deserve. Yes, it’s not the traditional “happy” finale but these days we need a little something else to keep things fresh and STRONG definitely gives that to the audience. The ending may be shocking and it may enrage you to the point of tears. But you’ll never forget it. I guarantee that.
STRONG doesn’t have the standard two main characters, it has four. You’ve got the problematic drunk diva (Paltrow) who was once a STAR but is now struggling to get back on top. You’ve got her manager/husband (McGraw) who loves her but clearly loves the original, pre-drunk and pre-crazy, version of her more. There’s a new, very young and beautiful singer/songwriter (Meester) hoping to swoop in, steal some of our diva’s thunder and become the next big thing. And finally there’s the handsome good old boy singer (Hedlund) who is in my opinion the smartest of the bunch. He genuinely loves the music and just wants to sing weather it be a filled arena or the local bar on Saturday night. All four characters get equal amounts of screen time and that kinda surprised me since this was mostly marketed as a Gwyneth Paltrow joint.
Paltrow, who I just love (I used to just despise her because of her “I‘m so much better than the common folk“ attitude), is really amazing as fallen star Kelly Canter. I guess after her guest stint on GLEE and seeing her actually sing, I’ve began to lighten up a bit on her and started to realize she‘s a pretty decent actress. She is spot on in STRONG and her singing ability is quite good. I guess there are people that can do just about anything.
Tim McGraw, on the other hand, should really stick to singing. His acting is purely of the cardboard variety and his character James just didn‘t have much in the way of depth. He looked good, had a few decent moments and that was about it. I just felt like many others could have done better. The real shame here is that this is a movie about the country music industry and director Shana Feste never bothered having him sing. Just one sweet duet between Paltrow and McGraw would have cemented there feelings, relationship and gave all the McGraw fans a little treat. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen and his whole performance suffers as a result.
The two to watch here are Chiles Stanton (Meester) and Beau Hutton (Hedlund). They are the real main characters. Watching the effect Kelly has on these two is the real “meat” of the movie. You, as the audience, get to see how a career in the music industry can destroy the artist even the most innocent ones. If you’re a fan of sudsy A STAR IS BORN-esque soap operas then you’ll find a lot to enjoy in COUNTRY STRONG.
Which brings me to the ending. I guess I understand why the filmmakers went the way they did but it is a bit of a shocker. Kelly seems to finally have gotten it together as she gives sage advice to Beau and Chiles. There’s a great quote that Kelly gives to Beau …but I can’t remember at the moment, IMDB doesn‘t have it listed and this flick isn‘t airing in time for me to rewatch it to crib the quote to use here. Trust me, you’ll know the quote when it hits. It’s that good and would’ve been a great spot to end the movie.
Or they could’ve ended it immediately after Kelly gives probably the greatest performance of her career. Following the show, she comes off the stage to a waiting Chiles and says “Now that’s how it’s done sweetheart”. That would’ve been a GREAT spot to end the movie. Real whoosh moment and all that.
But it doesn’t end there. It ends with a out-of-left-field suicide which propels the remaining three characters to reevaluate their lives. It’s a sad, bizarre and ultimately uplifting ending that you’ll just have to see for yourself. Know that you know about the end, you should be able to mentally prepare yourself and have a good time with COUNTRY STRONG. Congratulations, the week is half over and the weekend is just around the corner.