Soon after a rising young singer-songwriter (Garrett Hedlund) gets involved with a fallen, emotionally unstable country star (Gwyneth Paltrow), the pair embark on a career resurrection tour helmed by her husband/manager (Tim McGraw) and featuring a beauty queen-turned-singer (Leighton Meester). Between concerts, romantic entanglements and old demons threaten to derail them all.
A Nashville superstar faces a crossroads in her life in the sweet, sentimental Country Strong
. While in rehab, Gwyneth Paltrow's six-time Grammy Award winner Kelly Canter has a fling with an admiring orderly, Beau (Tron: Legacy
's Garrett Hedlund). An aspiring singer/songwriter, Beau tells Kelly's manager and husband, James (Tim McGraw, Hedlund's Friday Night Lights
father), that he's her "sponsor." Anxious to revitalize her career, James checks Kelly out early to send her back on tour. He may love his wife, but he doesn't know when to stop pushing. When he hears Beau's duet with former beauty queen Chiles (Gossip Girl
's Leighton Meester), he adds them to the bill. En route from Tennessee to Texas, Beau discovers that Chiles is more talented and intelligent than he thought, but he remains devoted to his mentor, even though he knows they have no future. When Kelly starts drinking again, Beau gravitates towards his more stable tour mate. Writer-director Shana Feste (The Greatest
) doesn't argue that love and work can't coexist, but rather that love and fame are incompatible. They certainly present a challenge, but it's a shaky thesis on which to build a film, especially when McGraw and Faith Hill, one of Paltrow's musical inspirations, serve as the exception that proves the rule. Consequently, the scenario falls apart by the final act, since someone has to suffer to illustrate Feste's point. Until then, the cast rises to the occasion, particularly Meester, who brings a breezy charm to an overly pessimistic premise. --Kathleen C. Fennessy