One of the interesting things about cinema is every now and then is that audiences will see a trailer at a Movies 278 or Regal Cinemas Stadium 22 in Austell and cannot help but think, ‘I’ve seen this before.’ Most of the time, in variations from the original film, these films are least not released so close together. When viewers know a film was released in the previous year that is so similar in themes comparisons are bound to be made. In the case of Crazy Heart (2009) and Country Strong (2010) that very thing happened. While each of these films share that their main star is a country star, these films are all quite different from one another, even if they have their similarities. If these are movies one either plans on seeing and have not yet, then this might not be the article for you to read just yet. Please keep the article in mind when you’ve seen them and come back to it. If you are someone who does not mind spoilers here and the by all means read!
Let this writer start out with the various film plots, beginning with Crazy Heart. In Crazy Heart, the film surrounds a country musician, Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges), who has faded from the spotlight. During the time of trying to get back on top, he must reassess his own life, and depend on up-and-coming country singer, Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell) for another chance in the business he loves so much. What Bad does not expect is that somewhere along the journey he manages to fall for a journalist, Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal), he was reluctant to give an interview in the first place. And last, but not least, Country Strong is about singer Kelly Canter (Gwyneth Paltrow) who is struggling with addiction, as well as other personal matters within her life, and all the complications along the way. To give a bit more detail, Canter’s husband, James Canter (Tim McGraw), arranges for her to be released from rehab too soon before she truly knows how to deal with her alcohol issues. Friend of the troubled star, Beau Hutton (Garrett Hedlund) tries to convince James of such, but he does not listen. Instead, he attempts to put his wife back on track after a tragic incident in Dallas. If Kelly is going to tour, she wants to have control of her opening act and not just have Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester) open for her. In fact, she wants her friend Beau to open for her so she has someone to keep her company and sane while on the road.
Now that is out of the way, I feel the need to start by glancing more in depth at Crazy Heart and Country Strong. After all, every critic and viewer has compared the two to the point that my desire decreased ever so slightly to watch Crazy Heart after viewing Country Strong. This is not to say Country Strong is a bad movie by any means, but the film is rather depressing. If I had wanted to jump right into watching Crazy Heart afterward, based on the silmiarities, this writer believes people would have said I was crazy. The truth of the matter is while there are similarities, Crazy Heart is not Country Strong, it is better. I am sure there are plenty of people who will try and tell me different, but this is how I feel. Now back to our regular scheduled program. Both leads are alcoholics. This is simple and to the point, but they both handle their addictions in entirely different ways. They can both seen drinking at various bars and whatnot when they should not be in the middle of the day. This gets both of them into trouble, Canter on many occasions, Bad on one occasion that destroys the only good thing he has going in his life. The difference is Bad realizes his flaws. He realizes that he needs help and Canter does not. In fact, Bad tells his friend that he knows he needs help and he seeks this help out. And the best part is that even though the reason he sought help to begin with, Jean and her son, and she rejects him he does not fall off the wagon. He remains strong and determined to continue on with his life because he knows this is what he should do in addition to know that is what they would want for him.
The same cannot be said for Canter in Country Strong. Part of her problems stem from the fact that she lost the child she had been carrying after falling offstage in Dallas with a blood alcohol level of 0.19. Obviously she blames herself and continues to drink, she even decides to cheat on her husband with her “friend” Beau. While Bad has redeeming qualities by the end of the film, Canter does not. In fact she never truly redeems herself personally, but merely professionally, before committing suicide and leaving those who cared about her to deal with such an event. To be honest that is my major issue with Country Strong. If anything I would have thought by the trailers for both films, this ending would have been flip flopped. After all, Bad was older and most people insist the older one gets the more set in his or her ways they are so that type of ending for Crazy Heart would not have surprised me before seeing the film. After viewing the film, I would have been even more shocked than I was after watching Country Strong. At the same time, this action made sense for Canter’s character because in all reality she was beyond selfish the entire film. This is not to say she did not care about those in her life, she did, but at the end of the day it was all about her and that becomes even more clear with her suicide.
Overall and in many ways, I am a bit of a sucker for a good country film. In fact, after watching both films my desire to view Pure Country (1992) yet again increased. I think part of my desire was to merely see a cheesy romance or maybe part of it was to see a film that did not consist of a lot of downs, but more ups. Either way this is something I have on my to watch list soon rather than later. The fact of the matter is these are all films worth watching. They all have something to offer their audiences. All three films, while they have different messages, all convey one similar message. Love can conquer all if one lets it. That is the key though. One has to live their life the way they see fit and not the way someone else might. One has to live. If changes have to occur for them to do so then so be it, but only the person who needs change can be the one who initiates it and continue on their journey to make their life right once more. No one else can do this for them, but if one is unhappy in their lives in some way or another they can overcome. That is the most important thing for everyone in life to know and probably the most important message all the films give. Though in my opinion Country Strong could have done a better job of that without having her commit suicide because that is never the way to go. So do your friends and loved ones a favor and do not go down that path. Instead take a lesson from Bad and realize life is worth living and the journey is always worth continuing.
To read my full review of Country Strong please click here. To read my full review of Crazy Heart please click here. To read my full review of Pure Country please click here. To view other films surrounding a country singer, such as Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980), Tender Mercies (1983), Walk The Line (2005), or any of the aforementioned films above make sure to check out this title through Netflix, your local Austell Blockbuster, Videodrome, Movies Worth Seeing, or movie channels based upon your cable or satellite provider. To purchase any Blu-rays or DVDs mentioned in this review please check out your local Austell Best Buy, Walmart, Target, or Kmart.