About this time last year, audiences were impressed by Jeff Bridges’ portrayal of a troubled, alcoholic country music singer in “Crazy Heart,” but Gwyneth Paltrow doesn’t pack much of a wallop in what seems to be a female twist on a similar story.
Self-destructive Kelly Canter (Paltrow) is a successful Nashville star but she’s just out of rehab and emotionally unstable. Married to her manager, James (real-life country superstar Tim McGraw, memorable from “The Blind Side”), she becomes involved in a romantic relationship with singer/songwriter Beau Hutton (Garrett Hedlund of “TRON: Legacy”), whom James has hired to be her opening act for a Texas comeback tour of Austin, Houston and Dallas, where several months earlier, Kelly took a tipsy tumble and suffered a miscarriage meltdown. To complicate matters, she’s resentful of sensitive James’ interest in up-and-coming crooner Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester of “Gossip Girl”), a sassy, wide-eyed former beauty queen. Sob. Choke. Suffer. Sing. Sob. Choke. Suffer. Sing.
Between her incessant blogging sessions, Oscar-winner Gwyneth Paltrow has obviously become obsessed by singing; she’s warbled before in “Duets” and “Infamous” and on “Glee,” recently performing at the Country Music Awards with Vince Gill. So, channeling her inner Patsy Klein via “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” she launches forth on this vanity project, guitar-in-hand, vulnerability at the surface, keeping in mind, as James says, “Just because something’s on the radio doesn’t mean it’s good.”
Formulaically written and earnestly directed by Shana Feste (“The Greatest”) with a heavily melodramatic emphasis, it’s a sudsy, down-home, generic soap opera with far too many contrived coincidences. In interviews, Feste acknowledges that the meandering story was inspired by boozy Britney Spears’ fame/media woes, yet it also seems to run parallel to the troubles that have beset Mindy McCrea. Tragically, Gwyneth Paltrow’s late father, Bruce, was first-cousin to Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ father and, amid her publicity tour, Paltrow extended her sympathy to the Giffords family.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Country Strong” is a clichéd, corny 6. Concentrate on Michael Brook’s standard-heavy soundtrack, supervised by Randall Poster.