It is once again Throwback Thursday, and this movie did come out in 2010, and unfortunately take me THREE YEARS to see but last night I finally watched Country Strong. (I found it at the library last Saturday on my way to my parents when I stopped to pick up The Kids Are All Right.) Sure it’s dramatic, sure it’s a little intense, sure depending on how you take it might seem a bit grim but oh my! I loved this one. Maybe it’s my habit of getting hooked on things really easily, but this one reeled me in from the beginning. I love getting to hear Gwyneth Paltrow sing (ever since I downloaded “Crusin'” back in the day.) I admire Leighton Meester and seriously enjoy getting to see her act in a role other than Blair Waldorf (although, I’m also a fan of Minka Kelly and if my heart could handle thrillers would have loved to see The Roommate.) Tim McGraw always seems to sneak into this great films, and I forget and then at the end I’m like “oh yeah! That’s Tim McGraw!” And Garret Hedlund?! Oh my goodness. (Friday Night Lights, Four Brothers (which I’ve actually seen MULTIPLE times believe it or not!), Georgia Rule, Eragon…) I feel like he carries this film!
Granted Rotten Tomatoes gave this film a 22% and it has six out of ten stars on IMDB, but I genuinely enjoyed watching this. A few years ago my friend Emily put some songs from the soundtrack on a mix for me, and I could NOT stop listening and sharing them, (and okay maybe I’ll admit I put the lyrics in some Facebook statuses because I’m still fourteen like that.) Before I watched this, I knew I enjoyed the music, and I had actually wanted to see it back when it was in theatres, but once I got to know the story that went with it, I was sold immediately. It’s funny that as I was describing it to my friend Kylan he said, so it has more of an Almost Famous feel to it, than a movie musical? And that is EXACTLY what I was thinking about as the movie was wrapping up last night, (for more than one reason!) I’ve been off my country kick lately, but watching this settled me right back in it I think.
Country Strong tells the story of a famous country star, Kelly Canter, a struggling alcoholic. Her husband James (who is also her manager basically) took her out of rehab early, thinking she should continue on with her career and get back out on stage and tour. Beau, a thriving young, hard-working, down-to-earth musician is along on this tour – trying to take care of her. Then you have Chiles Stanton (stereotyped as a “beauty queen,”) she’s like an up and coming next big thing and Kelly is one of her idols. Throughout the film you see these people’s relationships intertwined between love, frustration, admiration, longing, despair, sadness. Kelly is grieving so much in life, her internal battles, the loss of her baby, the crumbling of her marriage. There are points when you can see James silent sadness as he sees Kelly slip further away from him. Beau is on the edge of fame, he could have it but does he want it? His heart is huge. (I felt like he was swoon-worthy from the opening scene.) Chiles – she’s on the edge of fame too, but in a different way – she really could have it all, the lights the glamour, the crowds, not just as an opener but the real big deal. This isn’t like my favorite movie ever now, (I think most recently, Silver Linings Playbook is hanging out in like top three territory and I don’t think anything else will make it in there for a long time,) but I did really enjoy it and I would recommend it! It’s not a girly chick flick, it’s not a romantic comedy – it’s dark, and it’s gritty, and it’s rough but I thought it was great. The music was wonderful, the costumes were incredible, and despite what others might say I think the acting was great.
*As always, I’m trying not to spoil this so if you haven’t seen it then don’t read on from this point.* SPOILER-ESQUE AHEAD!
For those of you who have seen this film were you anticipating the last thirty minutes? Before Kelly took the stage in Dallas, I thought she might end it all then (when she returned to her dressing room after dispensing life advice to Chiles.) I was not surprised or shocked by the ending. I felt like Kelly’s high was too high to not come crashing down…I watched the alternate ending in the DVD extras, and I’m pleased with the way they chose to wrap it up. I think it fit the film more. I wondered if Chiles would walk over to Beau at the cemetery, but I preferred the long glance from across the grass to the awkward conversation in the alternate ending. I liked the truck being the only vehicle in focus on the road, getting smaller (as it fit with the quote from Kelly’s letter to Beau.) Even if it means that the somewhat “happy ending” wins out, I liked that Chiles walked into the bar wear Beau was playing and joined him on stage. I like to think that means they both chose love over fame. From the moment they brought up the “Coming Home” song earlier in the film, I wondered if they would use it for a big more symbolic meaning. I thought it was weird that Chiles wasn’t upset when Kelly belted it out on stage, (even though the producers weren’t planning on giving her that song,) but then again she herself was a fan of Kelly’s. It seems I disagree with the majority of the comments on the IMDB message board. Most of them didn’t seem to see it coming, and several of them voiced that they thought Kelly’s demise was a a contradiction of the title. (Side note: I did enjoy that several people pointed out Chiles Stanton’s initials matched with Country Strong and she lived up to that…) I think Kelly’s final performance was for her fans and for herself. Once upon a time the stage was her favorite place to be, I think in those moments she felt strong and in control. I think she chose to go out with a bang, to not have her last show be her running off the stage in tears. I don’t think all of that means the movie shouldn’t have been titled Country Strong. Also, I think the Travis scenes were incredible! The chemistry of all the people in that classroom felt so raw and real. It’s been mentioned before, but I think the spark that Paltrow conveyed in Kelly through those scenes is part of the fire everyone could see in her when she was in her prime. The moments between Kelly and James then too, a glimpse into a former life, it was all exquisite and heartbreaking.
And just for an extra, this is one of the songs my friend included on a mix and I loved it. “Kissin’ in Cars” by Jesse Lee: