Reviewed by: Mike Coad
CONTRIBUTOR—first time reviewer
|Featuring:||Gwyneth Paltrow … Kelly Canter
Leighton Meester … Chiles Stanton
Tim McGraw … James Canter
Garrett Hedlund … Beau Hutton
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“It doesn’t matter where you’ve been as long as you come back strong.”
I went into this film with some expectation of what I would be seeing—lots of country music—Gwyneth Paltrow crying a few times—and just generally a basic story line of a fallen star who returns back to stardom. What I didn’t expect is the level of profanity and sexual situations and a complete absence of any sense of morality.
The story follows the lives of four main characters—Beau Hutton and Chiles Stanton as two young and rising country singers/songwriters and James Cantor and Kelly Cantor as the country superstar and her husband /manager. The story picks up with Kelly (prematurely) getting out of alcohol rehab and her husband pushing her to get back on the road to rebuild her career. Along for the ride are Beau and Chiles, who are picked out of the local bar scene to perform with Kelly on her comeback tour.
She does indeed make her comeback, after several failed attempts, mostly due to alcohol abuse and just generally reckless and destructive behavior. These include sexual encounters—none of which are with her husband. This destructive behavior is apparently due to an an event a few months earlier in her life, when she had a miscarriage due to a drunken fall from stage at a concert in Dallas. The film’s only slightly moral comment is made by Beau, after after being with Kelly, when he says, “Maybe we should stop—you are married”—maybe? we should stop.
This is one of the most depressing films I have ever seen, with some of the most unlikable and dysfunctional characters, who I never really came to be interested in or care about. Even when Kelly has her predictable comeback moment, it’s hard to root for her, because of her horrible behavior up to that point. There is never any remorse or redemptive expressions by any of the characters, even right up to the end—in fact, the end itself is just the natural outcome of a life (lives) of sin and excess. As my wife said—people with no hope, act out in desperation.
As for the negative content, there is much.
Profanity is peppered throughout, with a sum total of almost 50 “cuss” words, plus about 17 missuses of the Lord’s name. At times it seemed rapid fire.
Sexual situations are plentiful, also—several scenes of various stages of undress and several implied and not so implied (as in shown) adulterous and inappropriate sexual encounters. No actual nudity, but plenty to make up for it.
Violence is low, with only one punch thrown by James to Beau.
All in all, I cannot recommend this film. It could have been so much better—everybody loves a comeback story—it happens all the time in the movies, and we love to root for the one who comes back, and and we feel good with them when they get back on top. Not so here. Kelly lives a life of excess and never shows remorse for her actions—while very sad—not someone you can get behind and wish the best for.
As for moviemaking quality, it isn’t too bad—the acting, writing, filming, etc. is about average. Gwyneth does a fairly decent job on her songs, and most of the music, itself, is pretty good (if you like country music). For this, I say skip the movie and get the soundtrack instead.
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Heavy
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.