Country Strong Shana Feste

Country Strong Shana Feste
There's nothing sadder in the world than a good country tune, except for maybe the booze-soaked, sleep-deprived, emotionally impossible days and nights that inspire these moving songs. Writer/director Shana Feste's Country Strong is one such tragedy.

One of the genre's biggest stars falls off a Dallas stage, five months pregnant and wasted, killing her child and her spirit at the same time. A year later, she's checking out of rehab earlier than she should to return to that same stage and reclaim her career, as well as her self. People are fighting, cheating and making up, but by the time it's done, everyone is crying tears into their beers.

Gwyneth Paltrow plays Kelly Canter, a Faith Hill-type country superstar, but with a slew of public problems. While her troubles are all very adult, her demeanour is that of a child's. Paltrow plays Canter as a little girl, lost in a big world; she would much rather tend to a baby bird she found in a field than perform in front of thousands of screaming fans. She isn't sober for long once her husband checks her out of rehab, as it becomes painfully clear the public isn't going to let her forget her personal hardships. She loses herself in anything and everyone she can in order to avoid herself, until that's all she has left, and Paltrow's got a mess of mascara on her face most of the time to prove it.

Country Strong, which also boasts a surprisingly beefy supporting cast, culminates into a somewhat simplified commentary about celebrity and people as products. Feste pulls out every country punch she can think of, but lucky for her, Paltrow knows how to roll with these, turning them into something so real you too can have a silent sob in your beverage. (Sony)