Thursday, June 16, 2011

Country Strong

An excellent Sirkian melodrama that celebrates the cheesy Americana that is country music while also satirizing it. It's a fine line and, for the most part, this movie walks it. The scriptwriters were smart enough to know that the story of an aging, alcoholic country singer (Gwyneth Paltrow, always good) was going to get tiresome, so they give us four characters: her slightly Machiavellian husband (Tim McGraw in a non-singing role), an ingenue gunning for big fame (Leighton Meester), and a singer-songwriter trying to stay uncorrupted (Garrett Hedlund). These four jump in and out of bed with one another while on a disastrous tour that is supposed to be Kelly Canter's comeback (she's fresh from rehab). The satire in this film is both specific and subtle. Leighton Meester's character Chiles wants to succeed at country pop, and has written a song called "Summer Girl" that is both catchy, and a pitch perfect parody of the type of country hits coming out of Nashville these days. Kelly Canter is a typical mega-star whose personal life has become a huge part of her mainstream popularity. One of the best shots in the film is her final performance; she sings a song called "Coming Home" while old movies of her as a child run in the back of the giant stage. It's not the money that's corrupted her, it's how much of herself she has made public. While this film is not as immaculately constructed as a Douglas Sirk film, it's in the ballpark. Also, you don't have to like country music to like this but it sure helps. An underrated movie.

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