Movie Reviews: Morning Glory & Country Strong

April 20, 2011 at 11:27 pm Leave a comment

Actor Jeff Goldblum at the Tiff 08 Premiere of...

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Morning Glory is a movie about a news producer with echoes of Broadcast News and Mary Richards. It’s all perky comedy, and the debate about substance and content versus infotainment and sound bites is over. The idiots won the ratings war. This movie basically presents a world in which real news is something that might occasionally interrupt a cooking segment. That’s a given here, and actually something that our heroine argues for the merits of.

The heroine of the movie, played by Rachel McAdams from The Notebook, practically makes Maria von Trapp look like she’s suffering from chronic depression. People constantly ask her if she is about to burst into song. But no, she does not sing. Instead, she whips a fourth rate network morning news show into shape and wins over a cantankerous Harrison Ford in the process.

What’s up with that? Lately every time I see Harrison Ford in a movie I feel like they wrote a script for a character that’s code named Curmudgeon and thought of him first. If they are going to do a biopic of Andy Rooney’s life, they should call Harrison Ford. If only Calista would let him grow the ear and nose hair necessary! I would go to see that.

Patrick Wilson does a nice turn as Rachel McAdams’ love interest, and Diane Keaton is pleasing but under utilized here. I would have liked to see her be supportive of Rachel’s character instead of a middle aged version of Mean Girls, but you can’t have everything. The supportive co-worker is played by John Pankow from Mad About You. He deserves credit for his subtle and excellent performance.

Jeff Goldblum, as Rachel’s boss, is just a genius as usual. Jeff Goldblum could read me the phone book. Seriously. Someone should record that as a podcast for iTunes. I would buy it. My criteria for how badly I want to see a movie kind of works like this: are either of the Jeffs in it? Goldblum or Bridges? I am there.

It’s a cotton candy movie, but it doesn’t pretend to be anything different. It works for what it is.

Now, Country Strong, on the other hand…Where do I start? This was supposed to be serious cinema, an Oscar contender. It was supposed to be THE PART for Gwyneth. There was tons of publicity, about Gwyneth gaining weight eating fried food and getting trashed all over Memphis. OMG! I think she actually gained 15 pounds! Gwyneth, what commitment! Does this remind you of Jeff Bridges’ interviews about gaining weight eating tons of Haagen Daas for Crazy Heart, anyone?

As a nod to authenticity, Gwyneth sang a song from the movie with Vince Gill at the CMA Awards. She even played guitar. Did this win anyone over? I wanted to like it. I swear I did.

Here’s what I have to say about Country Strong. It’s like someone saw Crazy Heart and decided that the new way to win critical acclaim and sell DVDs along with soundtracks is to convince some actor to play an alkie country singer. Want an Oscar? Play an alkie country singer. Want to jump start a recording career? Hire T Bone Burnett to supervise your soundtrack and record music of you singing while you play an alkie country singer.

What the producers of Country Strong, along with Gwyneth, apparently, forgot is that Crazy Heart actually had a good script. Who wrote the crap I saw on my screen? They should be shot. I could Google it, but I’m afraid that someone might take me seriously, and I would be sued.

The script makes our heroine so unlikeable that you’re actually relieved at what is supposed to be a tragic ending. You just basically think, well, thank God her husband is free of that selfish bitch. And her husband isn’t even a sympathetic character, either! Tim McGraw comes across as a greedy bastard.

The beginning of the movie sees two totally green kids recruited to be the opening act for what we’re told is a big current country star playing to sold out stadiums in Dallas, Houston, and Austin. Yeah, right! And the kid who’s been fucking Gwyneth while she’s in rehab just so happens to be one of these green kids. What an amazing coincidence!

The kid, who’s talented but undiscovered, is recruited as her “sponsor” to keep her sober while on tour. Tim McGraw wants him there to overcome the beauty queen’s stage fright, but the kid’s supposedly convinced to go based on his concern for Gwyneth.

Are we really asked to believe that Tim McGraw’s character really thinks this kid is his wife’s AA sponsor? Not implausible at all. Sarcasm: a service I offer for free.

The scenario that’s supposed to make our heroine sympathetic and likeable is that she lost a baby when she was 5 months pregnant by tripping over a microphone wire on stage in Dallas with a .19 blood alcohol level. Just before her first comeback concert someone sends her a package with a “dead” baby doll. I was just waiting for the reveal when the supposed beauty queen who’s been recruited as an opening act was the malevolent “fan” who sent the dead baby doll.

How disappointing that that didn’t happen! At least then it would have been a decent melodrama, especially if the beauty queen was actually sleeping with Gwyneth’s husband. Nothing doing. This script doesn’t have the balls to do that.

Of course, the young kid eventually tells Gwyneth that he won’t sleep with her anymore because she’s married. Well, she didn’t suddenly get married while she was on tour. The kid is screwing a celebrity; he’s known she was married all along. He didn’t suddenly grow a conscience. We all know the real reason he won’t sleep with her anymore has more to do with the beauty queen who’s on tour with him. But he’s still a loyal friend, following her all over town, prying bottles out of her hand, kicking her out of a possible gang rape scene in a bar and throwing her into the back of a taxi cab with the beauty queen.

The whole movie is just so tiresome and formulaic. It gives us a lead character who presents us with the rainbow spectrum of clichés and not a hint of anything remotely resembling likeability or even genuine humanity.

Country Strong is a waste of time. Some of the musical performances are good, but the best ones come from the two young kids. Gwyneth is passable at best. She can sing. That’s not the problem. She just doesn’t sing well enough or generate enough heat or charisma to make me believe that she’s the equivalent of a Wynonna or Reba or Shania.

The sound mixer fails to elevate her voice over the requisite applause. I just can’t buy, since I’ve actually been to many concerts, that any country powerhouse would allow her voice to be drowned out entirely by the applause. In short, Gwyneth doesn’t have “it.” But I give her an A for effort. The movie fails, but it’s not ultimately her fault.


Entry filed under: Adultery, Alcoholism/Substance Abuse, Entertainment, Humor, Media, Music. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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