In the midst of an argument in Georgia Rule (don’t ask me to pin down which argument as the movie itself is a never-ending looooong one), Georgia (Jane Fonda) observes her granddaughter Rachel (Lindsay Lohan) and rightfully states, “For a smart girl, you’re really good at stupid.” I can’t help but apply that statement to the three talented marquee actresses in this film (the luminous Felicity Huffman being the 3rd). For a trio of talents known for usually picking smart projects, what on earth drew them to this so-called showcase of the complicated mother-daughter relationship?
Opening May 11 in many local multiplexes, including Crown Block E, AMC Rosedale, and St. Anthony Main.
Georgia Rule is the latest soggy offering from Garry Marshall (Beaches, Pretty Woman) and it simply doesn’t work. The title refers to our apparent matriarch Georgia—she’s lived in small-town Idaho all her life, and daughter Lilly (Huffman, Oscar-nominated a year ago for the brilliant Transamerica, but perhaps best known as Desperate Housewives’ Lynette) escaped to glorious San Francisco and married a high-profile lawyer the first chance she had. The combination of never being told she was loved and dealing with Georgia’s laundry list of rules (dinner’s at 6 p.m. sharp, don’t take the Lord’s name in vain) was apparently the reason for the quick escape. After 14 years of no communication, Lilly has sent her daughter Rachel to spend the summer with Georgia (and all of her rules) since Rachel’s out-of-control behavior has become too much for Lilly and Rachel’s stepfather to handle.
What follows is two hours of on-screen fighting, arguing, and endless why-didn’t-you-tell-me-you-loved-me moments, which, after seeing a few scenes involving these self-involved characters, anyone could easily answer. And trust me, these women are given every reason possible to argue—the writers clearly wanted to make sure they wouldn’t run short on conflict—so we’ve got the alcoholism, the drug abuse, the estranged parental affection, the sexual abuse….the list goes on and on….to make for some catty fights that more often than not end with door-slamming and quick exits.
It’s too bad, really, for there’s no denying the combination of Fonda, Huffman, and Lohan works. These are three top-notch actresses for their respective generations, and yes, even Lohan. Her off-screen hard-core party antics sometimes get too much attention and her talent is overshadowed (the making of this film even carries a back-story—Lohan was repeatedly late to the set and consequently reprimanded in public for it—basically given a shape-up-or-ship-out ultimatum). However, the girl has chops and owns the screen in her scenes—she can be sexy and innocent simultaneously. And when the three do go at it (well…when don’t they in this flick?) they’re each clearly in the moment.
The problem, however, is the material they’re given. The characters aren’t one bit likeable, and much of the anger seems unjustified. I love a good guessing game of who’s really telling the truth, but the uncertainty involving Rachel’s “lie”—did her stepdad molest her or not?— doesn’t work with the combination of layered conflicts and angry characters who seem to express themselves only by screams and blames.
I hope we haven’t entered a new era of “chick-flicks.” Is Georgia Rule attempting to be a testament to the strong mother-daughter bond? Is it to exemplify the perseverance of women? Every man in the film is either shown as hillbilly ignorant (the extremely miscast Garrett Hedland), mopey and pathetic (Dermont Mulrony as the town doc) or an arrogant ass (Cary Ewles), which makes me believe Marshall was conveying a one-note idea of gee….no womder women are so messed up! Look at the crazy men they have to deal with! In the end, the only point one could take from Georgia Rule is that women love to argue and blame one another as opposed to dealing directly with the men who are the true root of the problems they’re encountering.
There are no rules to take away from Georgia Rule, but allow me to provide one: Stay away from Marshall’s mish-mash of a film and wait for the upcoming projects of the three actresses. It may take a bit of patience, but not nearly the amount you’ll exercise while sitting through this mess.
Stephen Sporer works at Macalester College and has reviewed films for KTFM 102.7, San Antonio’s #1-rated radio station. He recently moved to the Twin Cities from New York where he worked, studied theater at Sarah Lawrence College, and acted and sang in a wide range of venues.