WHY WE CARE


Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live. Through reviews, articles and discussions, we want to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."

YOUR STORIES


Family uses Plugged In as a ‘significant compass’

"I am at a loss for words to adequately express how much it means to my husband and me to know that there is an organization like Focus that is rooting for us. Just today I was reading Psalm 37 and thinking about how your ministry provides ways to 'dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.' We have two teenagers and an 8-year-old in our household...Plugged In has become a significant compass for our family. All three of our kids are dedicated to their walk with Christ but they still encounter challenges. Thanks for all of your research and persistence in helping us navigate through stormy waters."

Plugged In helps college student stand-up for his belief

"Thanks for the great job you do in posting movie and television reviews online. I’m a college freshman and I recently had a confrontational disagreement with my English professor regarding an R-rated film. It is her favorite movie and she wanted to show it in class. I went to your Web site to research the film’s content. Although I had not seen the movie myself, I was able to make an educated argument against it based on the concerns you outlined. The prof said that she was impressed by my stand and decided to poll the whole class and give us a choice. We overwhelmingly voted to watch a G-rated movie instead! I’ve learned that I can trust your site and I will be using it a lot in the future.”

Plugged In brings ‘Sanity and Order’ to Non-believer

“Even though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I find your Plugged In Web site useful and thought-provoking. No one reviews movies like you do. Instead of being judgmental, you put entertainment ‘on trial.’ After presenting the evidence, you allow the jury of your readers to decide for themselves what they should do. In my opinion, you bring sanity and order to the wild world of modern day entertainment. Keep up the good work!”

Mom thinks Plugged In is the ‘BEST Christian media review site’

"Our family doesn't go to the movies until we go online and check out your assessment of a given film. I think this is the BEST Christian media review website that I've found, and I recommend it to my family and friends. Keep up the good work!"

SUPPORT THE WORK OF PLUGGED IN

Our hope is that whether you're a parent, youth leader or teen, the information and tools at Plugged In will help you and your family make appropriate media decisions. We are privileged to do the work we do, and are continually thankful for the generosity and support from you, our loyal readers, listeners and friends.

PLUGGED IN RATING

Watch This Review

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Movie Review

It's been almost a year since six-time Grammy Award winner Kelly Canter was so drunk during a Dallas concert that she fell off the stage. She was five months pregnant at the time, and the 10-foot fall—not to mention her dangerously high blood alcohol level—resulted in miscarriage. Her husband and manager, James, is distant, resentful … and brokenhearted as he alternately prods her to perform and tries to pick up her pieces.

He pulls her out of rehab a month early to get "back on the horse," lining up a three-city comeback tour that culminates in the very city Kelly lost her baby. Kelly insists that Beau—a musician moonlighting at the rehab center—open for her. And James insists that a young beauty queen named Chiles shares the stage too. Turns out that while Kelly's developed a sexually fueled crush on Beau, both James and Beau are starting to see more in Chiles than just another pretty face.

It's clearly time for Kelly to have another meltdown.

[Note: Spoilers are contained in the following sections.]

Advertisement

Positive Elements

Overall, the importance of love is emphasized—though not always well demonstrated. His motives are mixed, clearly, but Beau does try to protect Kelly from James' tendency to overextend her schedule and physical capabilities. It might be said that Beau's brief moment of conscience with Kelly is positive. After the two have sex (it's implied), he wonders aloud if maybe their affair isn't the best thing for her. (His final solution? To run straight into Chiles' arms.)

Kelly goes through with a Make-a-Wish appearance despite the fact that James tells her she shouldn't bother since her career is already washed up. Her visit to a terminally ill boy's classroom is both powerful and sweet as she sings to him and scoops him up to dance with him.

This scene is the centerpiece in a series of scenes devoted to showing us that Kelly simply can't live with the fact that she hurt her unborn baby. The ways in which she deals with her emotions are the very opposite of positive. But her pain is very, very real. "I always wanted a daughter—I'd treat her like fine china," she says sadly.

About her suffering, Beau says, "She's not crazy. She's the only sane one here."

Kelly tells Chiles not to lie to fans about her past. Beau comes to Chiles' rescue when she freezes onstage. And he correctly—if a bit crudely—proclaims, "Just because they might put them on the radio doesn't mean they're worth a d‑‑n."

Spiritual Content

Kelly wears a cross necklace for luck, kissing it before each performance. James says he's "not much of a church man," but tells Kelly that when he first heard her sing, he thought "that must be what angels sound like." A promoter tells James that he and others have been praying for Kelly. Chiles says her idols are "Kelly Canter and Jesus Christ."

Sexual Content

Both Chiles and Kelly are seen wearing only their bras and panties. Beau and Kelly are seen wearing only towels after an implied romp. Beau initiates a "swimsuit competition" with Chiles, and both strip to their underwear. Women wear short and very low-cut dresses. In a tavern, Kelly briefly simulates a pole dance while standing on the bar. Some of her dance moves onstage are sexualized.

Kelly tries to reach out to her husband sexually by hinting about her bikini wax. He turns her down. She tells Beau not to sleep with anyone but her during the tour. She "fixes" a problem with a promoter by attempting to sleep with him. Couples kiss and caress passionately, and it's implied several times that they have sex. One scene shows bare backs and sides in dim light. A bandmate tells Beau and Chiles to sleep together and just "get it over with." Beau says he was sleeping with Chile's friend.

A few innuendoes wink at arousal and sex. So do songs. "Give In to Me" suggests a little more than just falling into someone's arms. And during her last concert, Kelly sings, "If you got it, flaunt it/Make the cowboys want it/You got to shake that thing."

Violent Content

Kelly slap-punches James in a drunken rage. James clocks Beau for sleeping with Kelly. Beau belts a concert promoter, pushing him and kicking him off the bus (where he's been fooling around with Kelly). Beau kicks in a locked door (to try to rescue Kelly). Kelly is said to have been arrested for drunken and disorderly conduct. Beau struggles to pry a bottle of alcohol away from her. Then he smashes it against a wall. She receives a bloodied baby doll and cruel note as a before-concert "gift."

She ultimately kills herself by overdosing on her medication. (We see only a glimpse of her still body.)

Crude or Profane Language

More than 15 s-words. That same round number can also be applied to the script's utilization of "h‑‑‑" and inappropriate exclamations of God's name—which is often coupled with "d‑‑n." Christ's name is abused at least four times. "A‑‑" and "a‑‑hole" also get a workout.

Drug and Alcohol Content

While on various prescription medications, Kelly drinks relentlessly. We see her try to perform drunk, disoriented and unstable.

Others drink as well. And many scenes are shot in bars. Alcohol is mentioned (sometimes adoringly) in song lyrics. Chiles says she's going to "drink until he's cute." Beau smokes.

Other Negative Elements

At the top of the list is this: When the story works its way around to Kelly's suicide, it's implied that you should have the right to bow out as gracefully (or not) as you wish.

Beau and Kelly revel in breaking the law when they hitch a ride on a train boxcar. James emotionally blackmails Beau into coming on tour with them, using Kelly as bait.

Drunk, Kelly throws up in a trash can. Chiles jokes about peeing in the "beautiful" tour bus toilet.

Conclusion

This one's a weeper, that's for sure. Sometimes for the right reasons. Other times not so much. Kelly's struggle with alcohol and drugs, mixed as it is with her guilt over causing her baby's miscarriage, will having plenty of folks reaching for their tissues. And while they're doing so, they may even be thinking about how precious life is—before and after birth.

Kelly chooses to throw her own life away in the end, as if somehow two wretched wrongs will make a right. She even leaves us with a romanticized voiceover that tries to convince us that everybody has "got the right" to exit stage left anytime they choose. She's dead wrong. Deep down, we all know that. And even Country Strong's filmmakers know it, because they quickly cut to Beau and Chiles deciding to put real life and real music ahead of fame and that fake stuff they play on country radio.

"Don't be afraid to fall in love," Kelly tells Chiles right before she dies. "It's the only thing that matters in life. Fall in love with as many things as possible." Then, breaking it down for the younger woman, she says, "Love and fame can't live in the same place—choose love."

In the vein of the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, you could commend Country Strong for peeling back the veneer of fame and celebrity, revealing the heartache, abuses and pain that sometimes lay beneath. But you've heard the old joke about what happens when you play a country song backwards, right? You get your dog back, you get your truck back, you get your girl back. This film piles it on so thick that if you threaded it into the projector backwards you wouldn't even get that much back. Maybe just the dog.

You certainly wouldn't get any clear sense of sexual morality back. The heroes in this story sleep together with the calmness and ease of ordering takeout. No regrets. And definitely no diseases. Beau, the coolest country cat around, shows us that fooling around is just part of the game, whether you go over to the dark side of fame and fortune, or whether you choose to walk into the light of small-town honky-tonk obscurity. Either way, casual sex is the one constant that binds all experiences together, we're shown. And that's a message that grates so hard against anything good this tall musical tale has to offer it nearly kicks it right off the stage.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

PG-13

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Gwyneth Paltrow as Kelly Canter, Tim McGraw as James Canter, Leighton Meester as Chiles Stanton, Garrett Hedlund as Beau Hutton

Director

Shana Feste ( )

Distributor

Screen Gems

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

December 22, 2010

On Video

April 12, 2011

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Meredith WhitmoreSteven Isaac

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Get weekly e-news, Culture Clips & more!