In the Third Full Paragraph, I'm Going to Spoil the Ever-Living Sh*t Out of This Movie
But that's how bad Country Strong is. And if the only other reason you might have for watching Country Strong is to watch Paltrow embarrass herself onstage, there's hardly any point. She sings only two songs, both at the tail end of the film, and if you've seen the video for Country Strong and watched this clip, you've seen the performances in their entirety (in fact, both performances are edited down in the movie). That's it. Seventy-five percent of the rest of Paltrow's screen time consists of her shedding mascara and bawling like Tammy Fay Baker (RIP) at a bankruptcy proceeding.
It's obvious that Paltrow's character in Country Strong was meant to be a supporting one, providing a backdrop to the main love story between Beau Hutton (Garret Hedlund) and Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester), two up-and-coming country singers who are chosen to support Paltrow's Canter in her first three-city tour following her release from rehab. Beau is chosen as an opener because, as an orderly in the rehab, he was fucking Canter, and Stanton is chosen because Canter's husband, James (Tim McGraw) may or may not have had a crush on her. Paltrow's part must have been dramatically expanded once she signed on to accommodate the awesome star power of the GOOP lady, and in shifting the focus to Paltrow, the main narrative takes a backseat to a hot Gwyneth mess.
And man, what a mess she is. Gwyneth's not a very convincing drunk, but she does a mean impersonation of a shit-faced actress attempting to play a shit-faced country singer, method acting taken to the shit-face extreme. She's smitten with Beau; in love with her detached husband; and jealous of Chiles, who pageant-girl sashays her way into Beau's heart, leaving Kelly as the odd one out with one final performance. And as surprised as you might be by the suicide going in, within half an hour, the only thing that prevents you from completely predicting it is the outright preposterousness.
Still, you wouldn't know it from the marketing, but Country Strong is actually Garret Hedlund's movie, about how his experience with the perpetually wasted Canter helps him to realize that fame and love cannot co-exist. It's a shame that Hedlund is given little more than bad, whiskey-tinged country-song lyrics disguised as dialogue with which to work because the man has presence and a voice capable of buckling knees. Put him, Tim Riggins, and Colin Farrel's character from Crazy Heart on the same stage, and there are thousands of Southern women who would spontaneously conceive daughters already pregnant with their own children. That is to say, given the right material, there's definite man crush potential here.
Country Strong, however, is not that material. It's exactly the kind of movie that would use a momma-less baby bird as a mawkish ill-formed metaphor and that would write itself into a corner in which suicide is the only answer. Twenty minutes into Country Strong and you may realize it's your only answer, too.