Movie Review: Georgia Rule
FILM REVIEW: GEORGIA RULE
By Michael Wilmington
Chicago Tribune Movie Critic
In "Georgia Rule," director Garry Marshall and writer Mark Andrus introduce us to three generations of women thrown together in a small, largely Mormon, Idaho town. In descending order, they are feisty grandma Georgia Randall (Jane Fonda), ex-alcoholic San Francisco-based Lilly (Felicity Huffman) and Lilly's rebellious, hell-raising daughter Rachel (Lindsay Lohan) - who has become such a troublemaker that Lilly sends her to live with Grandma Georgia in Hull (rhymes with "dull") for a while.
Georgia's home is a place of unbendable rules (hence the title) and unshakable proprieties. You swear, and your mouth is immediately washed out with soap. And you cross Georgia or do dirt by her daughter and granddaughter, and you get creamed with a baseball bat.
Eventually Lilly shows up, too, after a shocking revelation. So does Rachel's slick stepfather, Arnold (Cary Elwes), and the emotional fireworks keep exploding, with all three ladies scoring some touching or amusing moments. Those three roles are certainly well enough played by the movie's all-star trio. Unfortunately I couldn't buy any of them.
Maybe that's because writer Andrus, who grew up in a small Idaho town himself, often uses his characters for social points (sex and four-letter words aren't so bad, but cruelty and hypocrisy are) rather than to plumb real human traits and eccentricities. He's a blue-state guy paying homage to his old red-state roots, trying with Marshall to turn the show into a melange of red, white and blue sentimentality. I wish they'd succeeded.
The moviemakers do manage to give their stars a lot of big, actress-y moments where they can scream, cry, laugh or make startling confessions. The movie starts in high emotional gear and stays there, with Rachel and Lilly blasting away verbally at each other on the road before Rachel hitchhikes alone to Hull. In Idaho, Rachel, amazingly (and unknowingly) gets a ride from her mother's old beau, Simon the brooding, sexy veterinarian-doctor (Dermot Mulroney).
She also immediately meets Harlan, a hunky Mormon teen (Garrett Hedlund). Harlan will become her only friend in Hull, where the teenage girls are priggish snoops and the teenage boys, including Harlan, are apparently virgins. Nevertheless, the sexually active Rachel, who arrives with full makeup, a batch of novels, a knowledge of Ezra Pound and Bob Dylan, and a wardrobe that looks like, well, Lindsay Lohan's (at least as we imagine it), starts making waves. Everybody tends to gawk and gape at Rachel's duds, as if they'd never seen anything similar on TV.
Yet, no sooner does the Frisco rebel get into an argument with Georgia than the old lady scorches her with our most common four-letter sexual cuss word. It struck me as madly out of character, and this tendency to go for shocks and too-quick laughs often undermines the picture's more serious intent.
I didn't like the movie much, but I've got to admit that Marshall has a knack for this kind of thing. He knows how to play with audiences, even with a script that stretches everything too far. When Lohan's Rachel blurts out the secret that sets off most of the melodrama, it's in a confab with Simon, whom she barely knows. When she introduces Harlan to decidedly non-religious activities in his boat, she barely knows him either. But what's there to know?
Fonda smartly continues her recent comeback; she and Huffman are crafty actresses who hurl themselves into the emotional hurly-burly and make something of it. Lohan (who got bad press on this shoot) is less lucky in her teen femme fatale/emotional victim part, which seems to have been designed to let her run wild on screen and still gain our sympathy.
Maybe "Georgia Rule" should be required viewing for Paris Hilton during her term in the slammer. But not for us.
Directed by Garry Marshall; screenplay by Mark Andrus; photographed by Karl Walter Lindenlaub; edited by Bruce Green and Tara Timpone; music by John Debney; production design by Albert Brenner; produced by James G. Robinson, David Robinson. A Universal release. Running time: 1:53. MPAA rating: R (sexual content and some language).
Georgia - Jane Fonda
Rachel - Lindsay Lohan
Lilly - Felicity Huffman
Simon - Dermot Mulroney
Arnold - Cary Elwes
Harlan - Garrett Hedlund