Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Music City on the Silver Screen; a movie review

Saturday afternoon, 15 January, I did something I don't get to do as often as I wish. I took in a new movie, at the theater.

The movie is "Country strong".

I might not have paid it much more attention than any other flicks that have debuted so far this year. But when I watched Gwyneth Paltrow sing and play guitar, presenting the theme song, during last fall's CMA Awards show (right here in Bridgestone Arena, downtown) I got rather impressed. Plus, I came to remember that last year there was a call for Nashville residents to go to Municipal Auditorium to participate in crowd scenes for the movie.

Between the opening of "Country Strong" here and last Friday, I managed to read a few reviews of it. It generally got panned. I got to having second tho'ts about seeing it; wait 'til it would be available on DVD for check-out. However, I searched for the least expensive ticket in town and went.

I'm glad I did!

The movie was quite believable. In fact, I had to keep reminding myself that this was award-winning actress Paltrow PLAYING a PART, not a REAL country music star struggling with addictions and a troubled marriage. At one scene I got to feeling some animus against her character; she seemed too whiny (like Marsha Mason's role in "The Goodbye girl"). But then when she visited the schoolroom as part of "Make-A-Wish" I really warmed up to her. I began to root for her to overcome her dependencies and revive her marriage & her singing career. And then when she performed those songs on stage -- even tho' I knew this concert scene was shot in Nashville's Municipal Aud. and NOT in Dallas) -- I really was ready to stand up & cheer as tho' actually in the crowd at an actual Country Music concert! At this point also, Kelly Canter was making me think of Trish Yearwood and/or Faith Hill! (The latter, BTW, is Tim McGraw's real-life Pop-Country-star wife.)

As the reviews said, there were many clich├ęs which've been in more than one flick about a country music star. I myself noticed ones I'd seen in "Coal Miner's Daughter" and/or "Pure Country", but these didn't really bother me. What DID bother me: some scenes were set in Texas or "on the road again" somewhere/anywhere, but I recognized all urban scenes as shot in Nashville & the rural road scenes in rural Middle Tennessee. Not that such makes a BIG difference to yours truly, who long ago made his peace with knowledge that TV shows set in the Deep South -- "Andy Griffith Show" and "Dukes of Hazzard" -- got filmed in California.

But the other thing that bothered me was the conclusion, after the big concert scene. It mocked the movie's title; "weak" would've served as a more accurate adjective. True, in REAL life famous people struggling to rise back up from an addiction-induced slump DO sometimes crash-and-burn rather than overcome. But I so much WANTED Kelly to make it! And everything in the flick SEEMED to be leading to a spectacular triumphant finale. Or maybe I'm just not sufficiently perceptive; were there hints, omens I'd missed?

Actually, I did notice that after she left the stage and was walking backstage she had a very weary, almost troubled look. And when she locked the door I started to get nervous. So I wasn't totally unprepared, but with such LITTLE forewarning, coupled with my growing affection & hope for her, that suicide ending simply left me very dissatisfied. I walked back to my car feeling that I'd been robbed.

Finally I shall say that I applaud "Country Strong" (despite the mockery of the title by the main character's ultimately-fatal weakness) for its presentation of Nashville. It really captured Nashville as Music City, a place where the music industry strongly influences our economy and living. I liked how it displayed this one aspect of my current hometown's character -- never forgetting it's "Music City" as in MANY genres, NOT only Country Music. Nor forgetting that as State Capital it's a major location of governmental activity, as well as finance and insurance. Nor that this burg has TWO other important nicknames which reflect two other MAJOR elements: "The Athens of the South" (much cultural activity & numerous higher ed. campuses) and "Buckle of the Bible Belt" (denominational headquarters & publishing houses).

The movie may have had its weaknesses, but the city most definitely has MANY facets -- STRONG facets.

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