Sunday, January 9, 2011

'Country Strong' is Weak; Buy an Ed Bruce CD Instead

If you think a country music movie with Gwyneth Paltrow playing a boozy singer from Bristol (Tennessee, not England) is a bit of a stretch, you're right. "Country Strong" has a few nice moments and a decent soundtrack, but it is instantly forgettable becuase there's not much to it.

I was encouraged early in the movie when Ed Bruce, one of my two favorite country singers of all time (Larry Jon Wilson's the other, and you've probably never heard of either; your loss) showed up as the owner of a bar. But Bruce, who once played the sheriff on TV's "Maverick" with James Garner, passed into the night after that scene and a pedestrian movie took over. Bruce has a wonderful baritone voice and wrote songs like "Luckenback, Texas" and "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys" and is one of the most respected producers of music (and commercial jingles) in Nashville.

In any case, after Ed left, the movie was on its own, with Gwenyth in a role containing almost no substance (there was a nice scene midway when she sang to a little boy with cancer, but that was more contrived for tears than essential to anything going on). And speaking of tears, you'll need a few hankies here and there. The contriving doesn't stop and it'll get you eventually.

But Gwyneth Paltrow as a country singer? Casting needs a special award at the Oscars for this unlikely match (that doesn't work).

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