hopscotchee: leighton meester score: 46 rating: pg-13 time: 117 minutes
first things first (hashtag iggy azalea), country strong wasn't necessarily a bad film. recommended to watch by our lovely mother and telling the tale of a struggling country star who returns from rehab to go on her encore tour, country strong stars notable names like gwen-pal, tim mcgraw, and leighton meester. however, despite our love for ms. blair waldorf and katie's uncanny childhood impersonation of tim mcgraw, this movie just didn't hit well. overall, the story lacked connectivity and, at times, purpose, leaving you scratching your head and wondering 'what's the point'. that said, although not all minutes in this movie had a motive, there were still some shiny-star highlights. so, was country strong what it claims to be....was it actually strong?? we guess you'll just have to read to find out. shall we continue??
it only seems right to start with the film's sound. to specify, we aren't talking about how groovy or how likable the country performances were. that take is completely on your own personal country-music preference. we are strictly discussing the nasty sound mixing and audio quality. the best way we can explain what this audio was like to someone who hasn't seen the film is that it was like a typical action film. whereas, instead of the voices being super soft to accentuate the sound of the guns/violence, the voices were super soft to accentuate the loud singing performances. we cast this choice as another one that's irrelevant to the point of the film, because the film was mainly story based. therefore, it relied on the script to get the information across to the audience. we didn't have the monte carlo tip jar to tell us that it was our main character's dream to go to paris. yes, that was a contrast example from the previous film, but you get what we're trying to say. it wasn't like within the first couple minutes, as the opening credits were fading in and out of the screen, we had anything else to take in other than (spoiler) garrett hedlund singing in a bar. for that reason, the inaudible dialogue throughout the movie was definitely a low point. in its defense, it was most likely that way for a greater experience in-theaters, but we aren't in the theaters.
another culprit for country strong not having connectivity in its plot came from the editing. sure, there were some decent moments like the (spoiler) gwen-pal drunk in the bar sequence, cutting on beat to the bar tunes, but, overall, the editing made some strong choices. for instance, when (spoiler) beau invites chiles on stage with him to sing 'their' song, the editors separated beau's and chiles' verses between a whole lotta scenes, including (1) beau leaving the venue, (2) going to kelly to see she was hooking up with someone else, (3) him trying to take an alcohol bottle away from her, (4) going back to his room, (5) chiles knocking on his door and trying to talk to him, (6) him being rude to chiles, (7) chiles telling him that he's being rude, and (8) their inevitable sex scene. and then we get chiles' verse of their song. the potential to be sentimental was there, but the delivery was mistimed. a second example of their mistimed editing was when they took the punching impact away from tim mcgraw's incredible cry. after a very sweet moment that we'll go into later, tim mcgraw's character, james, walks out into a school hallway and begins to well-up. being one of the only times the emotions from the characters do properly get the chance to get to you, we are moved by his raw, emotional acting. the tears aren't bawling, but they're tender. anyways, as we are slowly zooming into his face, pulling us closer to his character and his emotions, we then abruptly cut to a loud song and a scene of the cars traveling on the road. AH!! it completely took away from tim's scene. just a few more seconds could've really given that impact, but the choice was made.
"the sweet part?? doesn't sound like you thought there were sweet parts in this film!!" if you are thinking this, we understand. we haven't been too glorious with our positives so far, however, we do truly think that the scene were (spoiler) gwen-pal visits travis, a make-a-wish kid, at his school and sings and dances with him is very, very precious. the moment was genuine and had enough lead up and understanding around the purpose of the visit. correspondingly, making this scene even greater of a moment was the underlining dialogue between kelly and james. throughout the film, (spoiler) those two have been struggling with marital problems after the loss of their unborn baby. it is a heavy struggle, and the weight of which it has affected them both can be seen and felt. so, when james steps in to dance with kelly (although, it is rudely taking away from travis), the unspoken heartbreak and ~slight~ forgiveness is heart-touching.
like we said at the beginning, we didn't hate this film. the outlook we take is that country strong felt like a poorly interpreted book-to-movie adaptation, and country strong wasn't a book. the film felt incomplete and not in the beautiful james bay way. but that doesn't mean that the whole thing was messy. we still appreciate the conceptual character-developments and the actors abilities to portray them. it just means that the reasoning and direction of the story was lacking, which made everything else around it hindered.
-- thanks, leighton xo