Country Strong

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Country Strong Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Well-acted drama deals with alcohol abuse and more.
  • PG-13
  • 2011
  • 100 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 10 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

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.


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.


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.


Swearing increases in frequency throughout the movie and includes "s--t," "a--hole," "bulls--t," "hell," "bitch," "damn," "oh my God," and "goddamn."


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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byRynMa January 25, 2012

How do you define PG-13?

This movie was a horrific display! I am ashamed to even say that I bothered watching it - even in hopes of it getting better - which it NEVER did!
Adult Written byJsca August 20, 2011

Realistic struggles

Presents realistic struggles. Provokes meaningful thought and conversation.
Kid, 11 years old September 1, 2011

Suicidal Nonsense

I would have given this movie four stars if it wasn't for the fact Kelly sings a strong and powerful song and gets her life back together and everything... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old August 23, 2011


this was so stupid!!!! I hated this movie! The ending was bad mom was going to go see it,but she decided to wait for it to come TV.we saw it the other n... Continue reading

What's the story?

Kelly Canter (Gwyneth Paltrow) is a six-time-Grammy-winning country music sensation -- but she's also an ugly drunk who was so intoxicated at a fateful Dallas concert that she ended up causing her own miscarriage. The movie's story begins almost a year later, as Kelly is prematurely withdrawn from rehab by her slick husband/manager, James (Tim McGraw), who's planned a multi-city tour culminating in a comeback Dallas appearance. James has lined up a young former beauty queen, Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester), to open for Kelly, but Kelly insists that Beau Hutton (Garrett Hedlund), her "sponsor" from rehab who's also a singer-songwriter, come along as well. The four of them set off on the ill-timed tour, only to discover that Kelly isn't better at all and Chiles is more than she seems. Ultimately, if she can't overcome her demons, Kelly could lose not only her fans' loyalty but also her viability as a country superstar.

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's central message about love versus fame. Which wins out in the end? Do you think that they can't co-exist?

  • How does the movie portray the consequences of drinking? Do you think it's a realistic depiction? What did Kelly's alcoholism cost her personally and professionally?

  • How does this movie -- which is about a fictional singer -- compare to dramas you've seen about real-life stars? Are there any musicians that Kelly, Beau, or Chiles remind you of?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate