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Film / Country Strong

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It doesn't matter where you've been as long as you come back strong.

A 2011 film starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Leighton Meester, Garrett Hedlund and Country Music singer Tim McGraw. Paltrow stars as Kelly Canter, a Country Music singer with a flagging career and personal troubles who is just coming out of rehab. To restart her career, she goes on tour with her husband/manager James (played by McGraw) and two rising young country singers: Beau Hutton (Hedlund) and former beauty queen Chiles Stanton (Meester). Along the way, the four get involved in romantic entanglements.

The album's soundtrack was released in October, featuring songs performed by its stars and various other country singers. Both the title track (sung by Paltrow) and Sara Evans' "A Little Bit Stronger" have become top 40 hits on the country charts.

Tropes present:

  • Aborted Arc: The first concert sets up what looks like Kelly getting jealous of James and Chiles getting too close. After the concert, this is dropped in favour of Kelly's worries that Chiles might be replacing her.
  • Anti-Hero: Kelly is a selfish drug addict who cheats on her husband out of insecurity and wants to become a parent and make everything better again even when it's gotten to the point where she seems incapable of holding it together for even one show... but then she does something terribly sweet like write a song for Travis and befriend Chiles. All the characters are anti-heroes in a way, even Beau and Chiles
  • Anti-Role Model: Kelly. Chiles looks up to her but in reality, Kelly is pretty self destructive.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Kelly wants to have a child again but her husband, James doesn't believe they are ready yet. Even to the point that he hasn't really forgiven her for their baby's death and hasn't been intimate with her at all. That and all the changes her addiction has made on her
  • Backstory: They hint that Chiles has this. She says that her parents are school teachers, but later on we find out that her parents both went to prison and at least one of them went for something violent. Only her mom is out now. and the fact that Kelly sees this makes it seem that she has some dysfunction in her family too.
  • Beauty Contest: Chiles is a former beauty queen, and she demonstrates her "seven different smiles" for Beau.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality:
    • A lot of it in the movie. Kelly cheats on James and is paranoid that Chiles will replace her and is cheating with James (neither of which is true) and is good with children and wants a child (but is in absolutely no place where she could do that) and then there's James (who is faithful to his wife, but his horrible decision to pull her out of rehab early, propels a lot of the problems in the film.
    • Beau is sleeping with Kelly and genuinely cares about her. But she's pretty much using him. He also teases Chiles and doesn't take her seriously for a long time. When he does, their relationship starts very shortly after he ends things with Kelly (which he did half-heartedly)
  • Book Ends: Almost. The movie begins with Beau playing by himself in an almost-empty room and ends in a crowded bar in California, but this time Chiles comes to play with him. Hinting that they might stay together after all.
  • Brainless Beauty: Everyone starts off thinking Chiles is only this.
  • Brainy Brunette: Chiles wants to be this instead of just the Brainless Beauty (and gets made fun of for it too).
  • Break the Cutie: This almost happens to Beau but he ends up better in the long run, even after the painful loss of Kelly
  • Butt-Monkey: Chiles Stanton acts as a butt monkey for a long time in the film. She's representative of 'pop' and appearance. She pretty much gets picked on by everyone (even her idol, Kelly) until she proves to them that she's more than just a Brainless Beauty — or trying to be.
  • Call-Back: During Chiles's first performance, she chokes on stage and Beau gets up on there to sing a duet. At the end, Chiles walks into the bar Beau is performing in and joins him on stage.
  • Celebrity Is Overrated: Fame ruins Kelly's life and ultimately causes her death, while Chiles and Beau turn their back on fame in favour of love.
  • Country Music: Of course.
  • Character Development: For Beau and Chiles but it's almost too late for Kelly and James.
  • Dance of Romance: While Kelly is performing for a Make A Wish obligation, James momentarily sweeps her up into one. Too bad it's just a Hope Spot.
  • Dark Reprise: Beau sings a song to Kelly while she's in rehab in a playful scene. The song is later played as BGM over Kelly's funeral.
  • Dead Man Writing: Beau reads a letter from Kelly written just before her overdose.
  • Driven to Suicide: Kelly overdoses on pills after her show in Dallas.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Most of Kelly's problems are down to the drinking and drugs.
  • Dysfunction Junction: James & Kelly. They both seem to have been genuinely in love, but the addiction and events in Dallas have put a huge distance between them. And they both can't handle it.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: Kelly gives off this image to the public. But the reality is something a little less glamorous.
  • Fanservice: Garrett Hedlund & Tim McGraw? They can definitely pull off all the scruff and flannel. Chiles is also a former beauty queen and spends a lot of the movie wearing very flattering dresses, even getting a Lingerie Scene.
  • Family Versus Career: This comes up, but also in "love versus career"
  • Friendly Enemy:
    • One-sided but Kelly considers Chiles her younger rival, meanwhile Chiles admires her. It becomes pretty funny.
    Chiles: (hopeful) are we like... friends now?
    Kelly no (laughs) not at all, sweetie!
    • And then, when Chiles asks for her autograph, Kelly signs it, "Stanton, stay away from my husband" while talking to her cheerfully. (Chiles doesn't even notice until, presumably, off screen she sees)
  • Good Bad Girl: Kelly Canter who has a load of substance abuse problems, but is good-hearted underneath it all.
  • The Heart: Beau fills this role, Kelly describing him as gentle and loving. Uniquely he's also of the Cruel to Be Kind variety.
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: Kelly has a Make A Wish obligation to visit a young boy with cancer in his school. This particular sequence shows Kelly's softer side.
  • Love Triangle: Kelly is married to James but having an affair with Beau. Then Beau gets flirty with Chiles.
  • Madonna-Whore Complex: Chiles is the Madonna - a wholesome Ingenue Girl Next Door type. Kelly is the Whore - a passionate Hard-Drinking Party Girl.
  • Manly Tears: When James gets news of Kelly's death, he's seen collapsing against the wall in tears.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer makes it seem like the story is about Kelly and Chiles competing over who is the bigger star, which happens, but it's definitely not the entire focal point of the movie. It has a lot more to do with Kelly's addiction and her relationship with James and meanwhile, Chiles and Beau and their rise in the business.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Beauty queen-turned-country singer Chiles Stanton is totally not an expy of Taylor Swift. Why do you ask?
    • Kelly was based at least in part on Britney Spears, who underwent a similar public meltdown. Lampshaded when Beau asks Kelly if she wants to go joyriding or shaving her head impulsively. She also has elements from Michael Jackson too.
  • Pretty in Mink: Kelly has a fur-trimmed coat.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Kelly and Beau are the reds - outgoing and passionate. James and Chiles are the blues - empathetic and reserved. The movie also plays with the set-up by having one character portray the positive qualities - Beau with his passionate love for everything, Chiles with her genuine compassion. And the reverse of the negative qualities - Kelly's impulsiveness and James's distance.
  • Refusal of the Call: Beau almost does this when James asks him to come on tour but then agrees when James mentions Kelly. Eventually he does 'refuse the call' and settles for a happy life in California playing for small crowds and improving his act.
  • Southern Belle: Chiles Stanton.
  • Title Drop: "Country Strong" is one of Kelly's songs.
  • True Blue Femininity: As the film goes on, Chiles is shown wearing lots of blue dresses.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Kelly's pet bird suddenly vanishes in the third act of the movie, without even a namecheck as to what become of it after her overdose.