Country Strong

Anticipation was mounting as I grabbed my coat and punched out on the time clock at my job. I practically sprinted from the employee lounge to the family locker room to change from my itchy, meshed material uniform into my comfy jeans, warm sweater, and favorite red scarf.

It was a Thursday and my in-laws had requested to keep my two kiddos overnight which left me with an afternoon of free time instead of hours of reading Thomas the Train storybooks, creating playdoh people, and watching the Fresh Beat Band on Nick Jr.

My afternoon belonged to me, and only me.

*insert the hallelujah chorus*

I’m certain the smile on my face was reminiscent of Jack Nicholson’s plastered grin in the original Batman, (the only one that matters if you ask me) as I approached the ticket counter. “One for COUNTRY STRONG please !” And with snacks & soda in hand I found a seat in the large theater about 13 rows up, smack dab in the middle.

It was about 10 minutes in when I realized I was completely in love with this movie.

I’m not sure if it was Gwenyth Paltrow’s sweet and tender voice, the string of diamonds dangling from her neck, or the incredible rice crispy treats I snuck into the movie that made everything just SEEM incredible. But I found myself enthralled within minutes.

Without giving away the entire plot, Paltrow plays a Country super star (Kelly Canter) who exits rehab to return to the world of music; traveling and touring. Her husband (Tim McGraw) is confident this is the perfect time for her to prove to her fans and critics that she is completely recovered and well able to handle the pressures of life on the road. She confronts her many demons and past mistakes within the film, all the while looking for someone who will love her unconditionally ; despite her flaws and issues. To the world she is defined by her incredible voice, All-american girl looks, and the mask of fame and riches. But inside….this woman is broken and even when controlled by her sinful habits….deserving of love.

I can’t reveal too many details of the movie without telling the whole story, so I’ll simply speak from my own perspective. Although I’m in no way famous ; I am often defined by the voice God has given me. Many times people have snubbed me while walking past me, but after hearing my voice and finding out I’ve toured with some gospel greats, I’m suddenly worth of their time.

I’ve sometimes been scared to allow people to get close to me for fear that once they realize I am not as “awesome” as my gift may be, they will abandon me.

I’ve gotten comfortable being a “back up” singer, because at least then I’m only standing in the shadow of someone else, and not in the direct spotlight.

Less pressure.

Less heartache.

Less abuse.

Or so I tell myself.

The trouble with having a GIFT is that although you appreciate the respect, appreciation, that comes along with it, there is also a massive amount of scrutiny.

Criticism.

Judgement.

Rumors.

Overall, I’d recommend this movie to anyone who can relate to 8 hour trips in a bus, fast food overload, countless hotel rooms, and the uncertainty of touring that naturally comes with the life of a musician/singer. Although somewhat subdued at parts, I thought Gwenyth Paltrow was perfectly cast as Kelly Canter. She told the story of many female artists throughout this movie, and I imagine some would even cower to see the hidden truth that many of them are personally struggling with.

One of my favorite lines of the movie was when an up and coming artist said to one of the musicians “She’s crazy”. This was the resolve she came to after watching Gwenyth Paltrow’s character have a meltdown before a show. He became agitated…looked her in the eyes and said, “She’s not crazy. She’s the only honest one here.”

authentic. transparent. Insightful. Great Music.

I don’t own any country music albums. But after seeing this movie I’m pretty sure I too amd COUNTRY STRONG.