Movie Review: Country Strong

I saw Country Strong this weekend.

I saw Country Strong this weekend, while in the Country Music Capitol Nashville Tennessee, while wearing cowgirl boots, the day after having been at a country music songer/songwriter concert. Those seemingly extraneous details actually added quite a bit for me to the Country Strong experience. At one point, a concert in the movie was so real and so good that I felt the urge to applaud. It felt like an extension, almost, of the previous night’s experience watching country music writers perform and talk about their experiences as country musicians to now see the story of someone in that industry played out before me.

I enjoyed the movie, the plot, the actors, the acting, the scenes, etc., but the star of the show in a movie like this, a movie about music and musicians, is the music, is the soundtrack. I’ve had “Give In To Me” and “Timing is Everything” in my head and playing in my iTunes all week. I couldn’t find the soundtrack in stores so I ordered the Country Strong: Original Motion Picture soundtrack on Amazon. But it hasn’t arrived yet or I’d have the whole thing memorized by now, I’m convinced. In the mean time I purchased a few of the movie version tracks from the Country Song More Music from the Motion Picture album on iTunes.

I feel about Country Song the same way I felt about Walk the Line, the Johnny and June story. I was captivated by the music and the story and especially the actors’ singing. I’m always impressed in films when the actors — Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line and Gwyneth Paltrow in Duets and now Country Strong — aren’t singers but they sing as part of playing a role. That, to me, carries more meaning and depth into the role than if the producers had hired a singer for a singing role.

An ironic point along those lines with Country Strong is that in this movie the actors sing and the singer acts. Country singer Tim McGraw plays a leading role in the film but doesn’t sing in the movie at all, either live or a song of his in the background, the exception being the closing credits during which is played his and Faith’s “Me and Tennessee.” (He’s married to country singer Faith Hill.) I enjoy more seeing an actor expanding their talents into singing and thus singing as part of a role than I do a Miley Cyrus or Mandy Moore type trying to act and then having their songs showcased as part of the movie. Maybe it’s because in the things I’ve seen the actors have done a better job at singing for their roles than musicians have done at acting. For some reason seeing Reese or Gwyneth and now Garrett Hedlund and Leighton Meester sing in a movie is more “real” because they’re using their talents as an actor to now act convincingly as a musician, including singing the part.

The clip above was a lot like a scene from Walk the Line — in fact, I leaned over to David during the movie and said “that is so Johnny-and-June from Walk the Line” — and right now it’s my favorite song/scene.


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