Country Strong [Blu-Ray] Shana Feste

Country Strong [Blu-Ray] Shana Feste
It's redundant to criticize a movie called Country Strong for having a clichéd plot reliant on broad, sweeping dramatic events that never quite reach their intended heights. After all, this superficial leap to tragedy propels most old school country hits with their matter of fact description of events devoid of emotional interpretation and elaboration. It's just hard to digest and engage in a film that's never the sum of its parts, having big dramatic moments without any context or connecting narrative flow. Such is the case with Shana Feste's ode to self-destruction and the shackles of public scrutiny, wherein fallen alcoholic country star Kelly Canter (Gwyneth Paltrow) reluctantly leaves rehab early to set out on a doomed world tour with the up-and-coming Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester) as her opening act. We know she's teetering on the edge only because we're told so and treated to the occasional scene of drunken histrionics, exacerbated by exceedingly convenient inconveniences, such as a flirtation between Chiles and Kelly's manager/husband, James (Tim McGraw). Since most of the film takes place on stage ― with Meester doing her best country-pop Taylor Swift routine, Garrett Hedlund tackling more traditional country and Paltrow sounding most like Faith Hill ― the drama in between comes off much like incidental music video filler. Sure, there are moments that suggest more, such as Kelly's eventual acquiescence to Chiles inevitable fame and offering of career advice, but they're fleeting and far less focused than the bright lights and cheering crowds of the varying performances. And while Paltrow actually does a solid job both on- and off-stage, making the most of every emotional scene and professionally singing country fare despite having a fairly flat voice, she never seems country. Meester and Hedlund look and act the parts to great effect, but there's something a little too proper and New York about Paltrow to ever come off as a bonafide country star. Included with the Blu-Ray are an abundance of special features, such as extended musical performances, the "Country Strong" and "A Little Bit Stronger" music videos and mini-supplements on the costumes, songwriting and casting of the film. There's also an alternate ending that's far more appropriate to the film than the partially uplifting one added to the final version. (Sony)