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Review: 'Country Strong' is like a song

January 7, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
"Country Strong" is now in wide release after a couple of weeks in select theatres. After seeing the film, it came to mind that "Country Strong" is like a country song.In the film, Gwyneth Paltrow plays a country music superstar fresh out of rehab. But she's still kind of a mess, and Paltrow plays those moments the best, when the character's fragile, angry, scared, confused and sad.

You see some of those emotions, plus warmth, in the film's best scene: a quiet, Make-a-Wish moment when her character visits a child with leukemia.

While Paltrow does sing in the film and shakes her stuff, the bulk of the singing goes to Garrett Hedlund, who plays an aspiring singer-songwriter and her not-so-secret lover.

Hedlund spent months preparing for this and he pulls off his singing with a deep, whiskey-voiced delivery that feels pure country.

Leighton Meester is the film's ingénue. I'm guessing the character's favorite movie is "All About Eve."

She's fine and so is Tim McGraw, who plays Paltrow's not-so-likeable husband.

You should know going in, this movie really is a musical, built around country songs which, at times, kind of sound alike -- at least to my ear. Think "Burlesque," but instead of glitz and sexuality, you get plaid.

It's pretty clear "Country Strong" is aimed at people who love country music. If you don't, the story alone is not going to do it for you.

Also, while Paltrow gets top billing and the film revolves around her, Hedlund's role feels the most prominent.

Without giving anything away, I didn't like the ending and I bet you won't either. I just didn't think it was the choice that made the most sense.

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