Country Strong review (Blu-ray) ?

Country Strong is the story of a rising country-music songwriter (Hedlund, of Tron Legacy fame) who sparks with a fallen star (Paltrow). Together, they mount his ascent and her comeback, which leads to romantic complications involving her husband/manager (McGraw) and a beauty queen-turned-singer (Meester).

What initally jumps out at you with Country Strong (aside from Hedland looking like a toddler who has drawn a beard on to his face) is that everyone involved seems to be able to sing and play their respective instruments. This is always a refreshing sight.

What then jumps out at you is how old fashioned the film feels, but not in a good way. It feels like it was made in the mid 1970s. A melodramtic, soppy trifle made up with layers chopped from daytime soap operas and finished with weepy hundreds and thousands. There is nothing new about this film and it certainly feels like it is stepping in holes in the snow left by bigger and better feet. The film falters under the weight of the highly hokey script and very predictable situations. Some of the dialogue in this film makes you want to reach for your old sick bucket.

Paltrow, (as Kelly, the troubled star) is as wooden as the grand olde Opry stage. While she shows she can sing a bit (as evidenced at the Oscar ceremony this year) the whole performance feels like a grand excercise in self indulgence. McGraw does his best to seem nasty, but he looks far too much like "Bullet-Head" Baxter, the angry Grange Hill teacher, for my liking. Hedlund and Meester make a reasonable double act and are certainly the only mildly interesting and entertaining elements in the film, which doesn't exactly speak volumes.

The film tries to tug at your heart-strings, but, like a clumsy drunk, it misses and shoves two booze soaked fingers down your throat. If you are after a really good story about someone who triumphs over adversity, you'd be better off watching Teen Wolf than Paltrow stumbling around, holding onto a vodka bottle.

EXTRAS ★★★ Deleted scenes; the original ending; music video for A Little Bit Stronger, by Sara Evans; music video for Country Strong, by Paltrow; extended performance of Shake That Thing, by Paltrow; the featurette A Little Bit Country: The Costumes; the featurette Friends in High Places: The Cast of Country Strong; the featurette Putting the Words in Their Mouths: The Songwriters.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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