Bangs and a Bun about the downfall of Britney Spears and how she is a product of the flawed star system. At the dizzy heights of her career Ms Spears was the biggest pop artist in the world, however seven albums, numerous No 1 singles, hundreds of magazine covers. two divorces. two kids and one nervous breakdown later and she is struggling to get back to her best. The fact is that the music scene has moved on without her and the stage is now occupied by likes of Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Rihanna. Like it or not the star system is brutal - you are either hot or you are not. It is a system that was created by Hollywood at the beginning of the 1900s as a way of promoting and exploiting movie stars. The emphasis was placed on image rather than acting abilities and studio bosses, PRs and agents worked together to create a persona. Although it officially declined in the 1960s the strategy is still used worldwide in the entertainment industry today and to much success.
Nowhere is the star system more relevant than in Country Strong in which Gwyneth Paltrow plays country music superstar, Kelly Canter who has had problems with alcohol addiction and has been rocked by scandal. After a stint in rehab she is back on the road headlining a major US tour, however it becomes apparent that Kelly's demons have not completely disappeared and she suffers meltdown after meltdown. To add to her woes there is a pretender to her throne in the form of Chiles Stanton played by Leighton Meester who is a new talent that has burst onto the scene. Chiles is young, beautiful, fresh and unlike Kelly can hold her nerves on stage. Kelly's self destructiveness is not just confined to the stage it also runs through her personal life which is complicated with her relationships with her lover, Beau played by Garrant Hedlund and her husband James played by Tim McCraw. Country Strong sort of loses its way throughout the film but what it does do is demonstrate how brutal fame can be to a young woman. The parallels between Gwyneth and Leigton's characters are interesting; one washed out and the other up and coming, one a feisty brunette and the other a fragile blonde. I thought it was also a nice touch that both actresses can sing a bit too. Overall Country Strong is not a bad film but I would put it down as more of a TV film, I just did not feel that it had enough of the wow factor to be on the big screen. You know how some films could do with editing? Well Country Strong actually needed an extra half hour to be added to the beginning so we could get to know the characters especially the lead role. The hasty beginning does not give us a real sense of Kelly and her convictions - what exactly caused her to have a breakdown anyway and why is her relationship with her husband dead? Country Strong misses a trick by not allowing us to invest emotionally in the characters, so all the dramatic events that unfold are to no avail because despite the dramatic ending I really did not feel the impact.
Country Strong is released in the UK on 25th March.
Check out the featurette below.