Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, January 07, 2011

Country Strong,another notch on the celebrity country star belt

Hitting the wide release circuit this weekend at the multiplex is Country Strong,starring Gweneth Paltrow as troubled country music diva Kelly Cantor who is making a comeback tour straight out of rehab.

Joining her on the road is real life country singer Tim McGraw as her manager/husband that is taking along a budding young songstress(Leighton Meester)as well as a promising singer/songwriter fella(Garrett Hedlund)to keep things interesting.

Most of the reviews so far have called this movie an old school musical soap opera and while they're probably right,that won't necessarily deter the regular pack of moviegoers from checking it out.

In all of the promos for this film,the main focus of the attention has been on Paltrow and her ability to sing somewhat credibly. While I think that she's just okay in that department,the producers are smart enough to see that highlighting Gweneth shaking her thing on stage is their best bet for box office gold. Novelty acts never go out of style:

It's no secret that many movie stars like to play at being music stars,both on and off screen but something about country music in particular seems to attract quite the range of actors to this musical genre. For your entertainment,here are a handful of Hollywood folk that have gone country for better or for worse.

First up is 1984's Rhinestone,with Dolly Parton playing a country star who claims she can teach anybody to be a singer and in taking a bet on that declaration winds up with Sylvester Stallone's New York cabbie as a pupil. This obvious clash of cultures was played up for laughs but it's hard to know whether to laugh or cry when Stallone gets to strut his cowboy stuff:

On a more serious but still satirical note,George Clooney and his fellow travelers in O Brother Where Art Thou back in 2000 wind up becoming overnight sensations as a bluegrass band named The Soggy Bottom Boys which aids them in their quests in most unlikely ways.

While Clooney and friends were lip syncing their musical moments during the film, a few actual singers in this field recorded the official soundtrack,which sold rather well and even gave bluegrass music a nice little revival there. An unexpected consequence of this movie,to be sure,but one that made plenty of people smile:

Speaking of lip sync,that is what Jessica Lange did when she played country music legend Patsy Cline in 1985's Sweet Dreams. While the main focus of the plot was Patsy's at times turbulent romance with husband Charlie Dick(Ed Harris),many came to see how well Lange would emulate Cline's singing performances.

Like Sissy Spacek did for Coal Miner's Daughter,Jessica Lange received a Best Actress nomination for Sweet Dreams at the Academy Awards that year. However,if she had also sang in her own voice as Spacek did,Jessica might have won the Oscar just like Sissy had done before her. Then again,maybe not but it certainly would have helped:

While Clint Eastwood's singing in an early film of his,Paint Your Wagon,has become a pop culture punchline over the years,his musical ability in the 1982 drama Honky Tonk Man aided his moving performance as Red Stovall,a struggling country-western singer looking to make one big hit before he dies from TB.

Taking his young nephew(portrayed by Clint's son Kyle)along on what is his last chance at stardom,Red does get a shot at recording a potential hit song to leave as his legacy but his illness overtakes him at a critical moment.

It's quite a touching scene,especially since the singer who finishes the song for Red(crossover c&w musician Marty Robbins)made his final appearance on film here as well:

No doubt that Gweneth is a fine addition to this roster and that she won't be the last to tackle the country music movie stage. That genre can be quite alluring,with it's broad range of emotions and dramatic wardrobe choices. Paltrow does appear to blend a little Shania Twain in her song styling for this flick and Shania is quite the crowd pleaser there.

When it comes to actors playing music stars,it's best to expect the unexpected. Even in other musical forays,you never know when a song will come along even in the competitive comic book movie game:

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