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Country Strong: movie review

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It's not enough to see a legend at the end of her tether. We have to see why she was a legend to begin with. Alas, this only happens in Kelly's very first scene. Beau Hutton (Garrett Hedlund), a talented singer-songwriter who also works at the rehab facility, plays her a new song on his guitar. She smiles moonily at him – it turns out they are also lovers – and then on the spot composes an improved lyric. Instantly we see how good she is and how much this music still means to her.

Soon she is prematurely plucked from rehab by her husband-manager James (country star Tim McGraw, who does no singing in the film). With Beau accompanying her on her comeback tour as a combination opening act and traveling companion, James holds out the hope that Kelly can revive her career and deep-six her demons. He must not have seen very many country movies over the years.

Along for the ride is beauty- queen-turned-singer Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester), another opener for Kelly and a potential love mate for Beau. She has a kewpie doll concupiscence that is supposed to camouflage her steely, star-in-the-making resolve. The camouflage is laid on pretty thick, though, because I failed to see the artist underneath. Since Feste doesn't go for the usual "All About Eve" vibe here – the gaga Chiles never seeks to undermine her idol – there isn't much for Meester to do except look, as the occasion calls for it, either charmingly bereft or charmingly charming.

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