I really really loved Country Strong. Totally my kind of flick. I went with my friend Sharon last Friday night to see it in theatre, and when we left, my mind was spinning with thoughts of the bittersweet tale, my new celeb crush, and a soundtrack that I can't wait to get my hands on.
For Sharon's take on the flick, check it out here. If you want to read my schoolgirl ramblings on how dreamy Garrett Hedlund is, carry on:
The story centres on Hedlund's character, Beau Hutton, an up-and-coming country singer, who gets his big break opening for superstar Kelly Canter (Gwyneth Paltrow) after he befriends her at the rehab centre where he works and she is a patient. Canter's husband/manager James (Tim McGraw) also sees potential in Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester), so he brings her along for the ride too. Kelly mounts her comeback while opening doors for two new bright stars-in-the-making, offering them advice while unknowingly giving them a behind-the-scenes glimpse into how fame can tear a person apart.
There's also a lot of mixed-up romance going on. Kelly adores Beau, but she also depends and leans on her husband, striving for his approval and hoping to make up the mistakes she's made in their marriage. Meanwhile, she's jealous of Chiles, who has caught James' eye. And once Beau and Chiles, old-time frenemies, are put in close confines, they start falling for each other too. At times, it's hard to keep up with the love...square?
But the soundtrack was the shining star of this movie. Gwyneth Paltrow was excellent as Kelly Canter, and from the concert scenes, you'd swear she spent her life on stage, doing just that. Leighton Meester, who James calls "the next Carrie Underwood", also perfectly portrays a young country starlet.
And Garrett Hedlund...Ohhhh, yum. His voice is like sand paper and warm hot chocolate. He reminded me of one my new country singing faves, Jamey Johnson. From Beau's first performance in the movie, when he sang a cover of Merle's "Silver Wings", I was in love. Definitely, definitely, my new celebrity crush. Sharon said she thought he looked like he needed to be thrown in a shower and scrubbed down. Quite personally, I was a big fan of his scruffy, shaggy cowboy appearance. But if we had to throw him in a shower and scrub him down, I volunteer...
Whoops. Just drooled a little on my desk, there.
Anyways, I was also fully impressed by the fact that all the stars in the movie sang their own songs. And thought it was pretty funny that the only actual country star in the cast, McGraw, didn't even have a singing role. In any case, it ups the cred of the movie that they all did their own vocals (and were quite good at it, too), much like Jeff Bridges and Colin Ferrell in Crazy Heart. Anyone of them could release a country CD right now and I'm sure it would hit the charts. Highlights are Hedlund's "Chances Are" and "Timing is Everything", Meester's take on one of my Jessica Andrews favourites, "Summer Girl", and her duet with Hedlund, "Give in to Me", as well as Paltrow's performances of "Shake That Thing", "Coming Home", and of course, "Country Strong".
It was a tragic movie about fame, love, and loss. I enjoyed every minute of it. If you like country music - or just scruffy, shaggy cowboys - I highly recommend it!