It’s getting simultaneously easier and more difficult to like Lindsay Lohan. Fresh from reports that the about-to-turn-21 actress has been attending meetings of Alcohol Anonymous, her role in "Georgie Rule" is not likely to adjust her degrading public image: she plays a monster of a teenager who arrives in a small Idaho town and promptly seduces her way through the male population by strutting Main Street like a modern-day, barely-pubescent Lady Godiva (without the horse). On the other hand, she plays the role well, delivering a moderately charming mix of sexuality and suffering that keeps the movie interesting despite its maudlin story.
All of which begs the question: is Lohan evolving into a capable actress? Or merely following the professional path of least resistance?
Lohan plays Rachel, whose alcoholic mother (Felicity Huffman), fed up with her daughter’s rebellious nature, banishes her to the Idaho farm (read: suburban two-story home) of her grandmother Georgie (Jane Fonda). There, Rachel subverts the religious fastidiousness of the local teenage male hottie (Garrett Hedlund), attempts to get into the pants of the town’s veterinarian/physician (Dermot Mulroney), and generally disobeys every one of her grandmother’s unbreakable rules (ergo the title of the picture). But it’s not all Rachel’s fault - she has a troubled past - and as the family’s secrets boil to the surface and the liquor and tears run, the three generations of women learn that... family ties... maternal love... women on the verge... oh hell, just insert your own highly emotional, tear-jerk of an ending here.
Central to the melodrama is the been-there, done-that script by Mark Andrus; it succumbs to all the predictable undercurrents of comedic dramas that attempt to make us love the rebellious thanks to an abused past. Here it only partially works, thanks to the limited scope of the script’s emotional depth. And frankly, while there are a few truly fun moments where Rachel’s big-city attitude conflicts with small-town Idaho, in large part Andrus backs off the contrast, lending his piece an aura of cowardice.
It’s Huffman, Fonda and Mulroney who step up to imbue the movie with some theatrical weight (in contrast with Cary Elwes, who in the role of Huffman’s husband merely shows his recently-acquired weight. What happened there?) Fonda and Huffman play conflict well, even when uttering superficial dialogue. And Mulroney’s deadpan, subtle delivery is a adequate foil for Lohan’s ebullience. For his part, director Garry Marshall is proficient, if not inspired - he’s in dire need of a return to top form ala "Pretty Woman," and his apparent affection for teenage diva wanna-be’s (witness "Princess Diaries") isn’t a real boon.
Despite its top talent and predilection for framing Lohan’s physique, "Georgia Rule" falls flat; by its teary conclusion we’re not certain whether we should feel empathy for this trio of miserable women - but we’re pretty sure that we’d rather have seen a more entertaining movie. And we’d like to remind the creative folk behind this picture that while exceptional talent might deliver box office gold, an exceptional script is golden.
Georgia :: Jane Fonda
Rachel :: Lindsay Lohan
Lilly :: Felicity Huffman
Simon :: Dermot Mulroney
Arnold :: Cary Elwes
Harlan :: Garrett Hedlund
Izzy :: Hector Elizondo
Sam :: Dylan McLaughlin
Ethan :: Zachary Gordon
Paula :: Laurie Metcalf
Grace Cunningham :: Christine Lakin
June Smith :: Chelsea Swain
Dog Bite Man :: Rance Howard
Director, Garry Marshall; Writer, Mark Andrus; Producer, David Robinson; Producer, James G. Robinson; Executive Producer, Guy McElwaine; Executive Producer, Michael Besman; Executive Producer, Kevin Reidy; Cinematographer, Karl Lindenlaub; Film Editor, Bruce Green; Film Editor, Tara Timpone; Production Design, Albert Brenner; Costume Designer, Gary Jones; Original Music, hn Debney; Casting, Pam Mickelson; Art Direction, Norman Newberry; Assistant Art Director, Scott Zuber; Set Decoration, Garrett Lewis.