This movie will probably be compared to A Star is Born, although I thought of other music movies. The much better Crazy Heart (the Dude won an Oscar for that 9 years ago). And, since singer Rose-Lynn gets out of prison and promptly goes out for some booze, smokes, and sex…I thought of The Blues Brothers, which started with Belushi getting out of the joint and putting the band back together.
It’s not Chicago blues, but Nashville country that director Tom Harper is tackling here, and it starts in Glasgow (which means the accents are hard to understand at times). He and screenwriter Nicole Taylor really let us down, especially since they got a great lead performance.
Rose-Lynn (a breakout performance by Jessie Buckley) does something that you’d think would be impossible. She takes this underdog story and makes you actually not root for her. You see, she’s a horrible mother to her two children. She’s horrible to her own mother, who is often relegated to caring for the children at the last minute (after raising them during Rose-Lynn’s stretch in the pokey). That mother is played wonderfully by Julie Walters. (You should find her underrated movie Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool from a few years ago.)
Rose manages to get a job as a maid. After hearing her sing, her wealthy employer, Susannah (Sophie Okonedo), decides to help out the struggling singer. This is a friendship that didn’t feel authentic. There’s also a scene with her employer’s husband that is utterly ridiculous, but most audiences will find powerful.
There’s also a segment with BBC DJ Bob Harris (who plays himself) that feels as corny as some of the segments in The Buddy Holly Story (Gary Busey) back in the ‘70s (even though I liked The Buddy Holly Story, and that was at a time when corniness in a biopic wasn’t yet overdone).
Rose’s big dream is to make it to Nashville and become a country star. Do you think that will happen for her? Well, the fact that she’s an ex-convict and could have visa problems, doesn’t slow the story down a bit. In fact, that would make for some fine lyrics for a country tune.
She makes it to the U.S., but I won’t give away what happens upon her arrival. It is interesting that some of those segments aren’t so predictable.
At one point, Rose says she likes country music because it’s “three chords and the truth.” Well, this plays those same three chords over and over and over. I wanted to switch the record on the turntable.
As great a talent as she proved to be, by singing and acting, the songs weren’t anything all that special.
The whole story was contrived, and watching a petulant child for two hours just grew tiresome.
I also didn’t buy the direction the movie took, either. I can’t explain without spoilers but, from the character that was presented to us for most of the movie, what happens with her at the end just doesn’t ring true. It’s a feel-good ending that maybe audiences will enjoy, but it doesn’t quite work.
1 ½ stars out of 5.