PG-13 for thematic elements involving alcohol abuse and some sexual content.
January 7, 2011
Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw, Garrett Hedlund, Leighton Meester
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CHRISTIAN MOVIE REVIEW
- Country Strong is all over the place. Sometimes it celebrates life, love and music; at other points, it just leaves a joyless taste of lust, depression, and faithlessness. In sum, the spirit of the country music and acting is strong, but the meat of the story and the characters is weak. The character motivations, in fact, seem very unclear.
The movie opens with James, the husband of country music star Kelly Canter, getting his wife released early from alcohol rehab. He does this against the objections of her “sponsor” and secret lover, Beau... (To read the full movie plot explanation, go to www.movieguide.org. Caution: the linked page contains spoilers!).
The main message of Country Strong is that fame and love can’t really co-exist at all. The movie’s definition of love is a romantic one, however, not a Christian, biblical definition centered on Jesus Christ. Also, the movie’s definition of art, in this case country music, is also romantic.
Thus, the movie, especially Beau, who’s the actual hero, says that true artists are supposed to completely shun the limelight, even if their art is beautiful enough to draw huge, happy crowds of cheering fans. Also, the movie seems to say that people in love, who may or may not get married, always should be completely focused on each other in an emotional, mindless, amoral psychological way.
Making matters worse is that Kelly keeps getting depressed and alcoholic in the story. Also, her husband keeps withdrawing from her, even when it looks like they could heal their relationship and renew their love. The movie is sometimes depressing and sometimes happy, though often not happy in a way that would make anyone want to cheer. Only when someone sings does the movie seem to soar.
Of course, all this doesn’t make for a convincing or satisfying whole, despite some great singing, music, acting, and lyrics. Also, despite the excellent country music featured, Country Strong provides a very jaundiced view of that industry, with very little of the patriotism and Christian worship that has come to symbolize a major part of it. In fact, broken marriages, promiscuity, adultery, and suicide are big topics throughout Country Strong, but there are no truly redemptive conclusions reached about these topics. And, the positive title song, sung very well by Gwyneth Paltrow, is completely denied and undercut by the ending of her character’s story. The fact that viewers don’t get to really hear how well her character can sing until the end also undercuts the plot, not to mention viewer sympathy for the movie’s biggest star.
Although Country Strong may be right to question the desire for fame and celebrity and features some excellent acting and music, its very bittersweet ending, immoral content, romantic delusions, and foul language make for a confused, ultimately incoherent time at the movies. Skip the movie and buy the soundtrack instead.
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NOTE from Dr. Ted Baehr, publisher of Movieguide Magazine. For more information from a Christian perspective, order the latest Movieguide Magazine by calling 1-800-899-6684(MOVI) or visit our website at www.movieguide.org. Movieguide is dedicated to redeeming the values of Hollywood by informing parents about today's movies and entertainment and by showing media executives and artists that family-friendly and even Christian-friendly movies do best at the box office year in and year out. Movieguide now offers an online subscription to its magazine version, at www.movieguide.org. The magazine, which comes out 25 times a year, contains many informative articles and reviews that help parents train their children to be media-wise consumers.
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