Country Strong – Gwyneth Paltrow’s country singer gets by on a diet of booze and corn

Country Strong - Gwyneth Paltrow

Looking toned and glowing on screen, Gwyneth Paltrow is a poster girl for the virtues of yoga and a macrobiotic diet – which makes her far too healthy-looking to convince as the troubled, booze-sodden singer at the heart of sudsy romantic melodrama Country Strong.

Dripping in diamonds and giving off a distinct cougar vibe, Paltrow’s country music superstar Kelly Canter is first encountered lounging in a rehab facility with hunky, guitar-twanging orderly Beau (Tron’s Garrett Hedlund). He’s been twanging her heartstrings too, until her manager/husband James (Tim McGraw) hauls her out of rehab prematurely for a trio of career saving concert dates.

Will Kelly pull herself together to pull off the concerts? Or will the pressures of the tour and memories of a tragic episode from her past send her into a Britney-style meltdown?

Country Strong - Gwyneth Paltrow & Tim McGrawCountry Strong - Garrett Hedlund & Leighton Meester

And who will end up in whose bed – given that Beau and peachy-keen beauty-queen-turned-singer Chiles Stanton (Gossip Girl’s Leighton Meester) have both got supporting slots on the bill?

Borrowing liberally from the plots of A Star is Born and All About Eve, writer-director Shana Feste (maker of 2009 weepie The Greatest) plays things straight. “Love and fame don’t mix,” is her film’s message, and she isn’t afraid of deploying time-honoured cliché or clumsily obvious symbolism to get it across.

Feste signposts what’s in store when Beau gives Kelly an injured fledgling in a box (but it’s James who ends up caring for the fragile bird). It’s all decidedly mawkish but the cast deliver their songs with gusto – though it seems perverse that out of the leading quartet it’s genuine country star McGraw who’s been cast in the only non-singing role.

On general release from 25th March.

“Compare & Contrast bore Couch Potato on the Country Strong soundtrack”

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