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?
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.