The music here is more original than the story, but both come together with a refreshing approach. This cowgirl follows some old trails: Films about aspiring musicians are endless, and the "Hey! Let's put on a show in a barn!" concept dates back to Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney in the 1930s, if not further. Writer-director Timothy Armstrong even creates a visual metaphor about overcoming obstacles by having a character literally get back on a horse. Of course, there's a reason these are stock plots: We're suckers for these stories. And happily, Armstrong's characters, while as clean-cut as Andy Hardy, are used in service of entertainment that's far more inclusive than films made in the early days of Hollywood.
Halley is an aspiring singer-songwriter, and the music is pretty good (revelation: Ladd can sing!). On the representation front, Halley's sister, Brooke, uses elbow crutches following the car crash that left her paralyzed and killed her grandfather. Brooke, who's a former rodeo competitor, also meets real-life inspiration Amberley Snyder, a barrel racer who found a way to keep riding and competing after losing the use of her legs. In these touches -- plus the story of kind friend Maddie (Maggie McClure, who wrote the movie's original songs), who has lupus -- Armstrong shows a concern for positively portraying underrepresented groups. Some might argue that includes those who live in small country towns like Chickasha, Oklahoma, where the movie was filmed. The characters take a measured approach to pursuing their dreams, and there are no baddies here, just people trying to do their best. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they mess up, and, as Ladd's character says in the film, "Sometimes bad things just happen, there's no reason why." In A Cowgirl's Song, Armstrong delivers a message to young viewers that all we can do is be the best we can, use the skills we have, and be grateful for the life we've been given.