By Caryn James | James on Screens January 4, 2011 at 4:05AM
Gwyneth Paltrow has been singing all over the place lately, on Glee, on the Country Music Awards, all to promote her new film Country Strong (coming Friday, after a very limited December opening). January, of course, is generally losers’ month at the movies, and Country Strong belongs in that dumping ground. Paltrow’s role as a Kelly Canter, a country star trying to come back after half-hearted rehab, is a much lesser yin version of Jeff Bridges’ yang in Crazy Heart.
Paltrow is just fine and so is Leighton Meester as the young star threatening to steal her glory -- even though Meester does come complete with her Gossip Girl makeup and slightly bigger hair. But the film, which starts off as pedestrian, turns more sluggish and strained as it goes on. Garrett Hedlund, the son from Tron: Legacy, plays the younger man who falls for Kelly, and he tries hard try to sparkle like a new movie heartthrob. That’s a big problem for him and for writer-director Shana Feste’s film -- the effort shows. And the music – well Crazy Heart sounded a lot better. Where’s T-Bone Burnett when you need him?
Because Paltrow’s character is falling apart for most of the film, she doesn’t have to be a terrific singer, she just has to be plausible as a megastar. She certainly does that. And although you wouldn’t know it from most of her films, she has a sense of humor to match her versatility. Instead of Country Strong, watch her on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon last night, when they sang in the guise of their 90’s group Shazzazz, a little parody better than most recent Saturday Night Live sketches.