Heart of the Country is an earnest, homey, salt-of-the-earth drama that takes place in small-town America. It is basically a showcase to launch Jana Kramer as an singing + acting star (as she sings on the soundtrack). Unfortunately for all involved, the movie buries itself in seriousness, making the whole thing a bit… dull.
Jana Kramer plays Faith, a small-town Carolina girl who dreamed of becoming a singer, so she moved to the big city of New York. Her dreams were put on hold, however, when instead she met and married a dreamy Wall Street guy named Luke (Randy Wayne), because, after all, her man is big money, and is apparently more important than his lady. So when Luke is arrested for some no-good Ponzi shenanigans, Faith is left with nothing (literally! her accounts are frozen!). With nowhere to go, she goes home to Carolina.
Gerald McRaney, as Faith’s father Calvin, is unsurprisingly the best thing about this movie. He is a withdrawn widower who falls asleep in his easy chair while watching the game. He immiately forgives Faith for blowing off her family for years, as her life in NYC was obviously more important. He pines for his dead wife, who died in a vague accident a few years earlier. His marriage was the light of his life, so he quietly convinces Faith to fight for, and forgive Luke.
To its credit, Heart of the Country doesn’t clearly define good guys and bad guys. A hot local-boy ER doc (Shaun Sipos) is introduced. In any other movie, he would have been the perfect match for Faith, but the story decides to give Luke a chance. The shamed husband is not entirely a villain, but it not exactly a victim either. If Faith gets a second chance, why not give Luke a second chance as well?
But the movie plays like Nicholas Sparks-lite. As cheesy and eyeball-rolling as the Sparks adaptations are, they usually wring some manipulated tears out of me. Heart of the Country did not. It needed more than plinking acoustic guitars and a well-lit countryside to move me. When the main character is kind of a reactive, uninteresting doormat, there isn’t a lot to keep you interested.