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Georgia Rule (7/10)

by Tony Medley

Not only does this start out as a traditional chick flick, but the contrived opening exacerbates the distaste, with some of that pseudo-snappy dialogue (Mark Andrus) common to the genre that generally turns my stomach. Not clever; not funny. It drags on from there for about 45 minutes, after which Lindsay Lohan overcomes the dubious script and saves it from itself. While it has all the ingredients of the worst of the class, a bad male and women in crisis, this doesn’t degenerate into total bathos, thanks mainly to the electric Lohan. Make no mistake; without Lindsay, this would be a dud.

The basic story is that there are three women, Grandmother Georgia (Jane Fonda), Mother Lilly (Felicity Huffman), and Rachel (Lohan). Rachel has severe behavioral problems; Lilly was a problem and is beset with bad habits, smoking and alcohol; and all their problems can be traced back to Georgia and her strict way of bringing up Lilly. Rachel has been banished from San Francisco to a small town in Idaho to live with Georgia for the summer, in the hope that it will put her on the straight and narrow.

Thrown into the mix are three men. The saintly Simon (Dermot Mulroney), a veterinarian who acts and practices as the small-town doctor, is so pure he could have a halo around his head without anyone noticing. Lilly’s husband, Arnold (Cary Elwes), who is Rachel’s stepfather, is the allegedly bad guy. Harlon (Garrett Hedlund), is a small town boy who becomes befuddled and intrigued by the sexually sophisticated Rachel. They all give good accounts of themselves, especially Hedlund.

A weakness of the film I thought reprehensible is the way it treats Lilly’s alcoholism with a wink and a nod. With rare exceptions (1962’s Days of Wine and Roses), Hollywood has treated alcoholism as a joke, something to be laughed at and with, and has rewarded this treatment with honors (1982’s reprehensible Arthur, which received two Oscars® and 4 nominations). Well, it’s not a joke. The way Lilly drinks in this movie is not something she could just dance away from, as she does at the end of the film. A responsible filmmaker would not deal with alcoholism with the haughty disregard director Garry Marshall gives it here. Alcoholism is far too serious a societal problem to diminish it by treating as just a comic device.

While Huffman gives a very good performance, the game Fonda struggles with a poorly crafted character whose take on life is a little hard to swallow. Despite her effort, and Huffman’s, the movie belongs to Lohan. She is as hot as any actress who has ever appeared on the screen with her clothes on, and that includes Monroe and Harlow and Tierney. But better than her natural sexiness, she grabs this role and takes it to another level. This 20 year-old woman can act and can carry a film containing a legend like Fonda. Huffman and Fonda may be capable actresses, Lohan is a star in the old-fashioned sense of the word. The film finally gets interesting, but what makes it special is Lindsay.

On the downside, the film accepts Bill Clinton’s definition that oral sex is not “sex.” Some people (maybe 99% of the population?) might disagree. Where there’s orgasm, there must be sex (Seinfeld set an even stricter standard, opining that sex occurs whenever there’s nipple involvement).

But that’s neither here nor there when it comes to this film. For me, a test of the quality of a film is whether I think about it afterwards. Based on that, this is worth seeing, because I have thought about it (well, Lohan, anyway) quite a bit.

May 9, 2007