The movie tells the story of Kelly Canter, stunningly portrayed by Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow. Kelly is
a highly successful country singer who has taken a Britney Spears/Lindsay Lohan-esque spiral into multiple stints in rehab and is preparing for another exit.
Beau Hutton (Garrett Hedlund) is a worker at the facility by day and a talented aspiring country singer by night who is popular in local clubs. Beau's luck of meeting Kelly - coupled with good looks and bad judgment as they engage in an extramarital affair - seem to be his ticket to country music fame.
Enter Kelly's husband/manager James (Tim McGraw), who is prepping for Kelly's comeback with a 10-city tour. His choice for the opening act is his new artist Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester), a wide-eyed beauty queen with a great voice and paralyzing stage fright. However, Kelly's insistence on having Beau come along too will make for inevitable conflict for everyone involved.
Kelly's musical success is evident throughout the movie with prominent mention of her six Grammy wins, her highly visible and large tour entourage, and her quick-thinking and life-saving PR team. Unfortunately, all of this is juxtaposed with prominent mention of her downfall. The audience won't see much of what led her to become a frequent visitor to rehab, but a tragic incident at a Dallas show will continue to haunt her and everyone around her.
Paltrow's performance in the film is flawless as she effortlessly transitions from a superstar to a drunken mess to a wife seeking to rekindle the bliss of being a newlywed. You want to root for her but seeing her stumble - literally and figurately - might also make you lose hope in what could be a fantastic comeback.
McGraw is convincing as the loving husband of the country star (which is not a stretch for him as he is married to singer Faith Hill). His character is not oblivious to his wife's extramarital affairs, but his unconditional love and a real desire to see her succeed seem to be the reason he hasn't given up on her.
The love triangle between husband, wife and Beau really carry the film, but Meester's character is not be discounted. She is beautiful on the big screen and plays her part well. It's almost as if life is imitating art - a young actress pitted against a Hollywood powerhouse in real life, and a young country singer attempting to follow in the footsteps on a superstar in film.
Hedlund makes a good showing for Beau and a good step in his career. From "Four Brothers" to "Tron: Legacy" to "Country Strong," his versatility as an actor is definitely on display.
You don't have to be a country fan to like this movie. You just have to like a good story.