Country Strong

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Country Strong
Theatrical release poster
Directed byShana Feste
Written byShana Feste
Produced by
CinematographyJohn Bailey
Edited byConnor O'Neill
Music byMichael Brook
Maguire Pictures
Distributed byScreen Gems (through Sony Pictures Releasing[1])
Release dates
  • November 8, 2010 (2010-11-08) (Nashville)
  • December 22, 2010 (2010-12-22) (United States)
Running time
117 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$12–15 million[2][3]
Box office$20.6 million[3]

Country Strong is a 2010 American drama film starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw, Garrett Hedlund, and Leighton Meester. The film, about an emotionally unstable country music star who attempts to resurrect her career, was directed and written by American filmmaker Shana Feste. It premiered in Nashville, Tennessee on November 8, 2010, and had a wide release in the United States on January 7, 2011. This is the second film in which McGraw and Hedlund have worked together, the first being Friday Night Lights in 2004. At the 83rd Academy Awards, the film was nominated for Best Original Song ("Coming Home").


Beau Hutton sings with Kelly Canter, a recovering alcoholic country music singer going through rehab. He is clearly smitten by her, and it is later revealed that the two have been having an affair, even though Kelly is married to James. Kelly is checked out of rehab a month early by James, who wants her to go on a three-city tour to restore her image. She agrees on the condition that Beau becomes her opening act. James has already planned to see Chiles Stanton, a beauty queen with potential to become a rising singer, perform that night in hopes that she will be Kelly's opener instead.

On the night of Chiles' performance, Beau dismisses Chiles as a "Country Barbie" and does not want her on the tour. Chiles' performance nearly falls apart as she gets stage fright and can not sing; however, Beau steps in and begins to sing "Friends in Low Places". The two sing the song together, and it gives Chiles the courage to continue on her own. James is impressed by Beau's performance, and offers the opening act to both of them. He suggests that Beau and Chiles could make quite the duo, but Beau disagrees. Nevertheless, Beau agrees to go on the tour because he cares about Kelly.

The first show is a disaster: before going on, Kelly receives an anonymous package containing a bloody baby doll with a note reading "Baby Killer," referring to the baby Kelly miscarried when she fell off the stage in Dallas during her last concert before she went into rehab. At that concert, she was five months pregnant and was found to have a blood alcohol level of 0.19 when she was in the hospital for the injuries related to the fall. Kelly falls apart, starts drinking, and almost refuses to go on. However, she is coerced into going on stage by James. She begins to sing "Country Strong" but breaks down on stage. She attempts to try another song, "A Fighter", but breaks down again and is led off stage by her husband, ending the show. They tell the media at a press conference that they had to cancel the show due to food poisoning and head off to the next show.

Beau ends his relationship with Kelly, and begins to spend more time with Chiles, whose fame has been increasing as the tour progresses. Chiles and Beau form a bond and Beau lets go of his earlier hostilities towards her. She even finishes the chorus to his song "Give in to Me". Later, Beau confronts James about Kelly's worsening condition. James insists that Kelly may get better, and says that he can't let her go out with a failure. Beau disagrees and subtly admits their affair. Enraged, James punches him in the jaw.

Before the next show in Austin, Kelly is unable to go on stage after drinking. Beau and Chiles still do their opening act, where they perform "Give in to Me" for the first time together. JJ, Kelly's agent, nearly cancels the tour but is dissuaded by Kelly's offer of sex; having witnessed this, Beau becomes frustrated with Kelly. That same night, Chiles and Beau have sex, and Beau confesses to Chiles that he likes her. In Dallas, Beau gives Chiles a pair of star-shaped earrings and asks her to move with him to California. Chiles immediately agrees, but then asks for more time to consider the offer.

The two perform and Kelly comes out, this time sober and ready, and performs her entire set for the first time. Kelly performs "Country Strong", "Shake That Thing", and "Coming Home". After the concert, James and JJ immediately begin making plans for Kelly's future. That night, Kelly commits suicide by overdosing on prescription medication. She leaves a letter to Beau, echoing his earlier words that "Love and fame can't live in the same place." In the letter, she gives him the advice to choose "love". Beau takes her advice, and after Kelly's funeral, he moves to California.

Later on, Beau is singing in a bar in California, when Chiles walk in, wearing the earrings he gave her. They begin singing "Give in to Me" together.



With a budget of $15 million, pre-production work on the project, then titled Love Don't Let Me Down, began in November 2009.[4] Shana Feste was working as a nanny for Tobey Maguire, caring for his daughter, when she wrote the screenplay. She showed him her "work-in-progress" at his request and he agreed to co-produce the film.[5] She had real country stars in mind when she wrote the script.[6]

Garrett Hedlund took guitar lessons because he could not play the guitar nor sing before the film.[7] He explained: "When I read the script and started playing guitar I knew I wanted to get there. I mean I wasn't going to have a hand double come in and be playing the chords, having to have two different set ups just because I couldn't get it down."[8] Gwyneth Paltrow also took guitar lessons.[6] Paltrow stated she had trouble understanding her character's alcohol abuse and sought advice in playing the character from Marvel Cinematic Universe co-star Robert Downey Jr., who has suffered from addiction in the past.[9] In interviews, Feste has said that American pop singer Britney Spears inspired Paltrow's character in the film.[10]

Principal photography took place in Nashville, Tennessee.[4] Locations used for the film include the Ryman Auditorium, the Union Station Hotel, Belle Meade Plantation, Mount Olivet Cemetery, the Fontanel Mansion, (Whites Creek, Tenn.) the Nashville Municipal Auditorium, and the Andrew Jackson Hall.[11] Filming also took place in Liberty, Tennessee.[11] The film was shot in 2010 from early January to the first week of March.[4]


On December 14, 2010, the official screening took place at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California. It was attended by the film's stars and included Tim McGraw, Gwyneth Paltrow, Leighton Meester, Garrett Hedlund, and many other stars of Hollywood and country music.[12] In the United States, the film received a wide release on January 7, 2011.[13]

The film was released on DVD/Blu-ray on April 12, 2011. The special features include the soundtrack, deleted scenes, music videos, extended performances, the original ending, as well as featurettes about the cast, the songwriters, and the costumes.[citation needed]


Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 22% based on 134 reviews, with an average rating of 4.6/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "The cast gives it their all, and Paltrow handles her songs with aplomb, but Country Strong's cliched, disjointed screenplay hits too many bum notes."[14] On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 45 out of 100, based on 30 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[15] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.[16]

Box office[edit]

Country Strong had two weeks of limited release, where it grossed $137,239.[17] It was released nationwide alongside Season of the Witch on January 7, 2011, and was projected to gross $5–6 million from 1,424 theaters in its opening weekend.[2] The film went on to debut to $7.5 million, coming in sixth place that weekend.[18] It went on to gross a worldwide total of $20.6 million, against its $15 million production budget.


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result
Academy Awards[19] February 27, 2011 Best Original Song "Coming Home"
Tom Douglas, Hillary Lindsey and Troy Verges
Golden Globe Awards[20] January 16, 2011 Best Original Song "Coming Home" Nominated
Satellite Awards[21] December 19, 2010 Best Original Song "Country Strong"
Jennifer Hanson and Gwyneth Paltrow
Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards 2010[22] December 16, 2010 Best Song "Country Strong" Nominated
Denver Film Critics Society Awards 2010[23] January 21, 2011 Best Original Song "Me and Tennessee" Nominated
Golden Reel Awards[24] February 20, 2011 Best Sound Editing: Music in a Musical Feature Film Fernand Bos, Philip Tallman Won
Teen Choice Awards[25] August 7, 2011 Actress in a Drama Leighton Meester Nominated
Academy of Country Music Awards[26] 2010 Tex Ritter Film Award Country Strong Won


The film's title track was recorded by Paltrow and released as a single to country radio on August 23, 2010.[27] Country artist Sara Evans' single "A Little Bit Stronger", is featured on the film's soundtrack[28] and was released as a single in September 2010 (which also served as a single for her sixth studio album, Stronger).[27] Both singles were promoted by RCA Nashville. The soundtrack debuted at #16 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart upon its release on October 26, 2010. Following the film's release in January 2011, the soundtrack rose to a new peak of #2 on that chart, as well as #6 on the all-genre Billboard 200 albums chart.

The film's score was composed by Michael Brook. "Coming Home" by Bob DiPiero, Tom Douglas, Lindsey, Troy Verges and performed by Gwyneth Paltrow was nominated for Best Original Song at the 68th Golden Globe Awards and 83rd Academy Awards, but it lost both to "You Haven't Seen The Last of Me" from Burlesque and "We Belong Together" from Toy Story 3, respectively.


  1. ^ "Country Strong (2010)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved 13 June 2023.
  2. ^ a b "Nicolas Cage's 'Season of the Witch' Poised for Modest Box-Office Opening". The Hollywood Reporter. January 6, 2011. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
  3. ^ a b "Country Strong (2010)". The Numbers. Retrieved February 13, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c "$15 Million Screen Gems Project Hires Local Cast and Crew". January 14, 2010. Archived from the original on January 21, 2011. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  5. ^ Leydon, Joe (December 1, 2010). "Shana Feste's Nanny Diaries". MovieMaker Magazine. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  6. ^ a b "COUNTRY STRONG - Production Notes". p. 1. Archived from the original on September 11, 2014. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  7. ^ Smith, Krista (January 7, 2011). "Country Strong Director Shana Feste: Is Garrett Hedlund the Next Brad Pitt?". Vanity Fair. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  8. ^ "COUNTRY STONG - Production Notes". p. 4. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  9. ^ Harp, Justin (22 December 2010). "Paltrow: 'Country Strong role hard to tackle'". Digital Spy. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  10. ^ Ziegbe, Mawuse (December 16, 2010). "Britney Spears Inspired 'Country Strong' Lead, Director Says". Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  11. ^ a b "COUNTRY STRONG - Production Notes - Filming In Music City". p. 5. Archived from the original on September 11, 2014. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  12. ^ "Country Strong Screening Hits Hollywood". December 14, 2010. Archived from the original on March 13, 2012. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  13. ^ "Country Strong (2010)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  14. ^ "Country Strong Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  15. ^ "Country Strong". Metacritic.
  16. ^ "CinemaScore". Archived from the original on 2018-12-20. Retrieved 2019-03-31.
  17. ^ "Country Strong".
  18. ^ "Weekend Box Office: January 7–9, 2011". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  19. ^ "Nominees for the 83rd Academy Awards". Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  20. ^ "Nominations and Winners - 2010". Archived from the original on April 8, 2011. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  21. ^ "2010 Nominations" (PDF). International Press Academy. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  22. ^ "The Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards". AwardsDaily. Retrieved March 7, 2011.
  23. ^ "Denver Film Critics Society 2009-2010 Award Nominations". Retrieved Feb 23, 2023.
  24. ^ "2011 Golden Reel Award Nominees: Feature Films". MPSE Golden Reel Awards. 2011. Archived from the original on April 10, 2011. Retrieved August 10, 2011.
  25. ^ "". Archived from the original on 2011-07-11. Retrieved 2011-07-24. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  26. ^ "Academy of Country Music | Search Winners".
  27. ^ a b "Gwyneth Paltrow's "Country Strong" on Country Radio". Country Music Tattle Tale. Archived from the original on 2010-08-01. Retrieved 2011-09-19.
  28. ^ Gallagher, Pat (June 15, 2010). "Sara Evans Gets Up Close and Very Personal With Fans". Retrieved January 26, 2011.

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