A star has bombed
YOU HAVE TO look back to the dark days of the Streisand regime to encounter vanity film-making of this enormity. To be fair to Gwyneth Paltrow, she is not making any misguided efforts to strip away the decades.
If anything, at 38, the stringy one is a bit young to play a drugaddled, booze-marinated countryand-western veteran. The only way to deter those admirable divas from making one last comeback is to secure the coffin with sea-going rivets. But really? You may as well cast Mickey Rourke as Elizabeth Bennett.
Yet another retread of All About Eve and, yes, A Star Is Born (with Paltrow in the senior role), Country Strong begins with the protagonist, Paltrow’s Kelly Canter, recovering from seven or eight addictions in an upmarket rehabilitation facility. Her husband and manager, James (Tim McGraw), wants her to get back on the road. Beau Hutton (Garrett Hedlund), her younger, guitarstrumming “mentor” – is that what they call them these days, darling? – feels that a further period in his tender loving care is required.
Mr Canter wins the argument and a new tour is unveiled. Beau, a selfdescribed outlaw musician, and Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester), a pop-country singer in the vein of Kelly Clarkson, are drafted in as support. Before too long, Kelly is toppling off the stage and the young tyros are mopping up the surplus limelight.
Even if the producers had cast a credible lead, the script’s uncertainty about the characters’ morality would have rendered the project close to unworkable.
Beau is having it away with Kelly at the same time as he’s moving in on Chiles. One minute James is a merciless Colonel Tom Parker; the next he’s a sensitive, wronged good old boy. Chiles can’t decide if she’s a moron or the next Susan Sontag. You don’t often encounter this level of slippery characterisation outside austere German films of the early 1970s.
Kelly Cantor is, of course, supposed to be a sacred monster. Unfortunately, unlike the performances of Bette Davis in All About Eve or James Mason in A Star Is Born, not even the tiniest particle of charm tempers the irascibility and unreliability. Few episodes in recent cinema have been quite so accidentally hilarious as the sequence that finds Paltrow, artfully dishevelled on the floor of a spacious wardrobe, waving a vodka bottle at her worried supporters. The impression given is of a publicschoolgirl coping badly with her first hunt ball.
Paltrow’s singing is adequate, but it’s not nearly good enough to justify the character’s apparent iconic status or to explain why, on first hearing her, James (whose definition of divinity seems fairly undemanding) decided “that’s what angels sound like”.
Why did Paltrow do it? Well, Jeff Bridges won an Oscar for playing the same part in Crazy Heart. A Razzie could well await Gwyneth early next year.
Dimestore cowgirl: Paltrow