Gwyneth Paltrow is the sort of well-mannered celebrity who never — even in her gregarious 20s — raised eyebrows by wearing her skirts too short, swaying boozily on a bar top or kissing a man who wasn’t her own. So the actress, 38 and the sort of conscientious mother who coordinates play dates from 5,000 miles away, relishes her misbehavior as a country star in her new movie, Country Strong, which opens Friday.“My life is all responsibility,” says Paltrow, shrugging into a hooded sweatshirt and kicking off her three-inch heels after a performance to promote the film at Yahoo in Santa Monica, Calif. “An amazing thing about playing Kelly was this abandon that she had. I envied it in a way. I’m so organized, and sometimes you feel like the responsibility you put on yourself is just gonna choke you. It was wonderful to play someone who, to everyone’s detriment, just didn’t have a care in the world.” Paltrow’s Kelly Canter is a train wreck with platinum records — think Britney Spears a decade from now, plus some twang and minus the intervention. Pulled out of rehab prematurely by her husband-manager (played by country star Tim McGraw), Kelly attempts a comeback. But things get complicated when she takes a shine to a smoldering young man with a guitar (Garrett Hedlund of Tron: Legacy) and faces some fresh-faced competition (Leighton Meester of Gossip Girl). This is Paltrow’s first major lead performance in seven years, since she became mother to Apple, now 6, and Moses, 4. “I’ve always been home, and I want to raise my kids myself, and you can’t be starring in three movies a year. You know, it just doesn’t work,” says Paltrow, who moved her family to Nashville for the five-week shoot. “I went for a week by myself, ’cause I thought there’s no way I can get into this character with my toddlers running around. You come home from playing drunk and sobbing and you’re like, `Hey, let’s make a painting!’ They’re just two different worlds.” Compared to its emotional rigors, the role’s musical demands were more straightforward. Paltrow, who had sung in the movies Duets and Infamous, took guitar lessons while her children were in school. She watched Loretta Lynn videos and consulted famous friends such as Beyoncé and McGraw’s wife, Faith Hill, on everything from exuding magnetism to holding a microphone. (Curiously, Paltrow doesn’t mention getting pointers from her musician husband, Chris Martin of Coldplay, though he did write a song for the soundtrack.) “I always think, `Well, she did it’ — Debbie Reynolds or Judy Garland,” Paltrow says. “People do it. So I think if they can do it, I can give it the college try.” — REBECCA KEEGAN Los Angeles Times
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