Oh, Country Strong—I wish I could’ve quit you. I stayed for all of your 112 excruciating minutes, both out of a sense of professional obligation and because I was surrounded by elderly people who were having enough problems hearing (“WHAT?!”) without some whippersnapper pushing past their fragile knees. The elderly loved you, Country Strong. “Wonderful!” the elderly said loudly afterward. “I love country music!” they said. “It was really like a love story,” they said.
May God preserve my mind better than it has the minds of these particular elderly, because you, Country Strong, are very, very far from wonderful. You created no sense of wonder at all, what with every character being a stereotype of a stereotype; what with your plodding, entirely predictable plot; what with your abysmally trite writing. And I’m no expert, but every note of your country music sounded painfully weak to me.
Gwyneth Paltrow emotes her way hollowly through her aging-alcoholic-country-singer-attempting-a-comeback role (though is that a hint of real desperation? It would certainly be understandable). Her country accent is merely passable, her singing is only adequate, and never have a pair of cowboy boots looked more awkward on a human being. Like her greedy cold country husband, her hot young country lover, and her vapid young country rival, her character is abominably shallow and terminally boring.
The various configurations of the love quadrangle that, inevitably, occurs could not possibly be less engaging—in your world, Country Strong, chemistry is nonexistent. And while according to a Gwyneth voice-over, love is “the only thing that matters,” you couldn’t prove that by her. The other characters are motivated by money, fame, and The Music (or maybe The Common People? Your hot-young-country-lover character is so dumb, he achieves a perverse complexity). If this is a love story, I’ll eat my nonexistent ten-gallon hat and then shoot myself with an actual big shiny country pistol. I’ve never been more dry-eyed than when your seen-it-coming-a-mile-away tragedy happens, Country Strong. I wish I could’ve quit you.