Mark Reviews Movies

GEORGIA RULE

1 Star (out of 4)

Director: Garry Marshall

Cast: Jane Fonda, Lindsay Lohan, Felicity Huffman, Dermot Mulroney, Cary Elwes, Garrett Hedlund, Hector Elizondo

MPAA Rating: R  (for sexual content and some language)

Running Time: 1:53

Release Date: 5/11/07


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Review by Mark Dujsik

What was this movie thinking? Yes, I should probably try to lay blame on a person or persons for such resounding errors in judgment, but Georgia Rule is somewhat unique. The problem is I don't know if it's director Garry Marshall's attempt at frivolous comedy, screenwriter Mark Andrus' bizarre juxtaposition of incredibly serious issues and carefree humor, or the kind of unholy creative meeting that takes place in board rooms full of studio execs trying to find ways of making a project more marketable that holds the most responsibility for this mess. The first two certainly have a major hand (the third is purely speculation, though I do wonder how much script revision has probably happened and hope this wasn't the script's original form), but this movie exists as a living, breathing monster of tonal inconsistency. Georgia Rule is a lighthearted romp about sexual abuse, alcoholism, and familial angst, and, as if that weren't bad enough, the movie wants to be taken seriously. I would consider recommending viewing it for the car-crash factor, just to see how completely misguided it is, because I doubt you believe me. Recommending on my part and doubting on your part, though, would be irresponsible and unwise.

The movie starts off—bam—with a fight—might as well get us used to it right off the bat. Rachel (Lindsay Lohan) is stomping down the side of an Idaho highway. Her mother Lilly (Felicity Huffman) is driving next to her, and they're yelling like mad. Rachel doesn't want to go to Idaho; she doesn't like the idea of being dumped off with her grandmother for the summer just because her mother and step-father can't handle her. She graduated early; she's going to Vassar in the fall. Well, Lilly's apparently used to this, so she drives off, leaving her daughter on the side of the highway, to her mother's house. Georgia (Jane Fonda) expects everyone to live by a lot of rules, and it's obvious her daughter didn't appreciate it growing up, for when they meet again after over ten years, the don't even hug. Lilly's going to go back to San Francisco to her husband Arnold (Cary Elwes), and, you know, Rachel will find her way to grandma's. Thankfully, a local kid named Harlan (Garrett Hedlund) finds Rachel lying on the side of the road, and the town's veterinarian Simon (Dermot Mulroney) drives her into town, where she finds grandma's house.

Rachel and Georgia fight. Then they're happy. Then they fight. Then Lilly shows up. She and Georgia fight. Then Lilly and Rachel fight. Then everyone loves each other. It's like summer vacation with the bipolar family, and it's not fun. You could have fooled Marshall, though, who plays the deep trauma of Lilly's alcoholism after watching her father die the same way as bickering and Rachel's admission of being sexually abused by her step-father and the resulting promiscuity as a girl just looking for love, setting the pain to a peppy pop soundtrack (apparently, they couldn't even find a downbeat Elliott Smith song to use). The psychology behind of these actions might be right, but the tone in which they're presented is just insincere and insensitive. Yes, let's laugh as Lilly tries to choose the best knife with which to kill her molesting husband, or let's feel touched by Rachel putting on Simon's dead wife's perfume in an attempt to attract him. I haven't the slightest clue how anyone conceived of the concept of presenting such sad, lonely people, desperately reaching out for some kind of affection and/or sense of normality, in such a cheery, happy way.

It's one thing to try to find the happiness in miserable lives, but it's another make the whole experience a jovial one. Some of this is just ridiculous, too. How Rachel could get into Vassar with everything she's apparently done and with such insightful observations as, "That's Ezra Pound, the poet" (as opposed to Ezra Pound, the window-washer), is stretching it. After Rachel and Harland mess around ("She gave me oral sex…  But we didn't kiss!"), Harland's girlfriend sends her pals to spy on them, which results in a use of the car-won't-start cliché. When Arnold rolls into town he brings a storm with him. No, it literally starts to rain when he arrives. The scene where Arnold and Rachel finally discuss what's happened plays like something out of an exploitative, student play. What keeps this debacle from being a complete, irrefutable disaster is the central trio, who all show one of the primary signs of good acting: putting in more effort than the material deserves. Jane Fonda's solid though her character is an obvious caricature, but Lindsay Lohan and Felicity Huffman actually seem to know what's going on with these women.

That's good, because Marshall certainly doesn't. Not only does he get the tone way off, but it's also lazy filmmaking. There are random shots of things like wheels pulling up to a curb (emphasizing her skill at parallel parking?), luggage being folded, and an amateur shot where Lilly slides into frame at the start of a dialogue scene. Yes, Georgia Rule is an utter mess.

Copyright © 2007 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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