A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Despite the movie's positive message about performing for the love of music and not for fame and money, there's some darker stuff here, too. Kelly's descent into depression and her relapse reinforce the idea that you have to choose between success (fame) and true love, because money corrupts everything, including marriage. The consequences of substance abuse are made clear.
Positive Role Models
Many of the characters -- including main character Kelly -- act self-destructively or selfishly, but Beau is a positive role model. He's a singer-songwriter who believes in the power of music and has no interest in becoming famous as long as he can still play for people. He sees beyond Chiles' beauty queen persona to fall in love with the deeper woman she is beneath the facade, and he is the only one who has Kelly's health foremost in his mind.
Violence & Scariness
Several references to the alcohol-fueled accident that leads to the death of Kelly's unborn baby. Someone sends Kelly a bloodied baby doll with the words "Baby Killer" painted on it. James punches Beau in the face. Beau has to push away a couple of angry patrons in a bar. Beau punches a guy who's taking advantage of Kelly. A character dies unexpectedly.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Kelly and Beau are involved in an adulterous relationship. They kiss passionately and in one scene are shown on a bed, having just taken a shower (presumably together) and about to make love, but one of them stops it mid-kiss. Kelly and James kiss and embrace. Beau and Chiles flirt, undress down to their underwear, and eventually spend the night together -- bare backs and shoulders are shown, and it's clear they've made love, since the next scene is of them in bed together, with a sheet draped across them. Kelly is shown in a compromising position with a man who can help her professionally.
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Swearing increases in frequency throughout the movie and includes "s--t," "a--hole," "bulls--t," "hell," "bitch," "damn," "oh my God," and "goddamn."
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Products & Purchases
A Ford truck.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Kelly is an alcoholic, and she relapses in several scenes that show her drinking -- alone, straight from a vodka bottle -- or at a bar acting very drunk. Beau smokes cigarettes, as do members of his band and members of the audience -- especially at bar gigs, where almost everyone is drinking. Prescription pills are abused.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this Gwyneth Paltrow country music drama involves many mature issues that may not be appropriate for young teens -- including alcohol abuse, rehab, relapses, prescription-pill addiction, infidelity, and depression. A couple of scenes show couples about to have or having sex, but there's no nudity beyond a bare shoulder or back. Language gets stronger in the second half of the film, which features many more instances of "s--t," "a--hole," and their derivatives. Overall, the movie offers a strong warning about the consequences of alcohol abuse, but an even more central message is that love and fame don't always go hand in hand -- and that love should always win between the two. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Paltrow is believable as a superstar country singer who acts tough but is quite fragile. Her portrayal isn't a revelation like Sissy Spacek's unforgettable turn as Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner's Daughter, but between Paltrow's fantastic guest spot on Glee and this leading role, the Academy Award winner has been doing a great job of reminding audiences she can act and sing. A couple of scenes with McGraw feel more forced than intimate, and there are more than a few predictably maudlin monologues and conversations, but there's no denying that Paltrow is a powerful presence on-screen.
All of that said, the emotional core of COUNTRY STRONG is definitely Hedlund, who plays a young singer unwilling to sell out with an intensity and vulnerability that was lacking in his performance in TRON: Legacy. His is the movie's only truly redeeming character -- a man who sees Kelly for who she is and is actually worried about her in a way that her own husband can't muster. Even more surprising is that Hedlund sang his own songs, just like Paltrow. Meester, meanwhile, nails the sugary-sweet public persona that hides the desperate ambition of a young woman who wants a big career. Still, despite the impressive singing and strong performances, some of the dialogue and plot turns are too hammy to make this a four- or five-star film.
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