Georgia Rule (2007)Rated R for sexual content and some language.
Starring Jane Fonda, Lindsay Lohan, Felicity Huffman, Dermot Mulroney, Cary Elwes, Garrett Hedlund.
LVJeff's Rating: 4/10
Photo ©Universal Pictures. All rights reserved.
Lohan's Goldfish Bowl
Despite the presence of screen vet Jane Fonda and recent Oscar nominee Felicity Huffman, all eyes are on Lindsay Lohan -- literally and figuratively -- in Georgia Rule. At least that may be the mindset of any potential viewer going into the movie, with Lohan's during-production shenanigans now well-publicized and her star potential ever so linked to both her natural good looks and her notoriety. However, a better movie would've taken the audience to a place past that, to something more absorbing or involving, but there's no such luck here.
This disappointment results from the story centering primarily on Lohan's character, Rachel, who has a personality the tabloid press might have attributed to Lohan herself. The movie immediately gets off on the wrong foot by introducing us to Rachel as she's walking alongside a car on a desert road. Inside the car, her mother Lilly (Huffman) pleads her to get back in, but the recent high school grad is angry, all rebellious and defensive as she throws a fit and screams at her mother to drive off without her. Later, she encounters two men on the road and proceeds to treat them with extreme rudeness and condescension. At once, this character is an unlikable know-it-all brat.
And it seems to get worse from there -- Rachel is a California city girl in a land of down-home Idaho folk; she's a sexpot in perpetually skimpy clothing; and she has a history of drugs and drinking. It makes the casting almost feel like some kind of cruel joke on Lohan. Having set this up, the movie now has the challenge of redeeming the character, as this is obviously the direction it's taking. However, to do so it plays a card from Rachel's past that a savvy viewer might find exploitative and rather clumsily handled.
Georgia Rule reaches for broken-relationship healing by way of introducing bitter antagonisms which have simple explanatory motives behind them -- at least simple enough to be dealt with in the space of a movie. Expose the motives, and the path to better understanding and harmony begins. Every major character in the movie has issues, from the local sad-faced veterinarian (Dermot Mulroney) to Lilly's routine-driven rule-enforcing mother Georgia (Fonda) -- hence the title -- whom Lilly has sent Rachel to live with in the hopes of having her shape up (or, as Rachel might see it, to get her out of the way). Director Garry Marshall attempts to juggle the several plot threads lightly, injecting awkward humor into the situations that don't otherwise call for any of the actresses to scream, be drunk, be depressed, or otherwise be hostile.
To say the least, the movie's tone doesn't settle easily, which might be considered a stylistic choice if we didn't already know that Marshall, who is better known for romantic or cute turns, is going for a straight-shooting dramedy. What we therefore get is an experience that's vaguely uncomfortable, a movie that seems to be walking towards it destination blindfolded. The film doesn't particularly stand out in terms of content and execution -- only Rachel's secret attempts to give the story real weight, but the way it's addressed feels like a cheat, trying to guilt the audience into sharing sympathy. And because of Rachel's untrustworthy nature, the audience is deliberately made to feel guarded, less invested in her and her relatives' fates.
Viewers are left with too much time to ponder what's become of Lohan -- why this rail thin girl is being sold as irresistibly sexy, why her voice sounds broken now, and will she still be able to harness her acting potential? The film becomes an unintentional goldfish bowl for the actress. Because of the way the script stacks the deck against Rachel in terms of earning audience sympathy, it's the wrong material for her -- she's not ready for it, so despite a sincere performance, Georgia Rule only succeeded in urging me to look upon her not with admiration but with pity.
©Jeffrey Chen, May 7, 2007