Mother-daughter relationship movie is moving, but not life-changing
Just a quick disclaimer about Georgia Rule, the new "family" film from Princess Diaries director Garry Marshall: Don't see it with your family. Especially if that family happens to include children, men, Mormons or anyone who might get squeamish when Lindsay Lohan allows a shy Idaho hunk to creep his hand up her dress on fishing boat. Toto — we're not in Genovia anymore.
But despite the squirm factor and somewhat cliché writing, some excellent performances and original storyline make Georgia Rule entertaining and even,
at times, deeply moving.
Lohan plays Rachel, a 17-year-old Californian wild child mixed up in sex, drugs and parties (which makes it unclear why Marshall famously got all upset over Lohan's wild partying during filming — she was obviously practicing method acting!). Rachel's mother Lilly (Felicity Huffman), possibly even more screwed-up than her daughter, sends Rachel to Hull, Idaho for the summer to live under the strict rule of Lilly's mother, Georgia. Rachel takes the news surprisingly well, eventually deciding to actually show up in Hull after bolting from her mother's car and taking a nap under road sign (yeah, she's that annoying).
Rachel quickly establishes herself as Trouble in the town, attaching herself to both young fishing hunk Harlan Wilson (Garret Hedlund), whose girlfriend is not pleased, and her mother's old sweetheart, Simon (Dermot Mulroney). She seems immune to the catty, self-righteous taunts of the Idaho Mormon girls ("Slu-ut!" one calls timidly at Rachel as she drives by her on the tiny, quaint street) — that is, until she chases a pack of them down in Harlan's pickup, corners them against a tree and yells, "If you ever call me names again — ever — I will find all of your boyfriends and [expletive] them stupid." So, she is human.
As it turns out, she's a lot more vulnerable than she lets on, revealing to Simon that she has been molested since childhood by her alcoholic mother's second husband. Or has she? Lilly hauls out to Idaho, Mercedes swerving and mascara smudging, to force chronic liar Rachel to tell the truth, whatever that may actually be. The rest of the movie is an emotional tennis match between Rachel and Lilly, Lilly and Georgia, Rachel and Georgia, Rachel and Simon… did he? Didn't he? Oh, the suspense.
Surprisingly, the actors actually manage pull it off. Lohan, who was excellent in Mean Girls and pretty much nothing since, proves to the world that she can play a wounded teenage party girl in a setting other than her own life. She does well sharing the spotlight with two other strong female figures while still getting to flash her cleavage and bat her overly-long eyelashes at the camera.
Huffman, known for her stable and grounded Lynette on Desperate Housewives, is just as good at the hysterical, cutting her own hair on the bedroom floor character more associated with her Housewives costars. And Fonda is a delight as the country mother who tells Rachel off first thing with a snappy "Go [expletive] yourself" yet brandishing soap for a mouth-washing each time a character says the Lord's name in vain.
The result of these interesting characters is a pretty good movie that doesn't take itself too seriously and doesn't force its emotions on the audience, though the audience is welcome to join in if, you know, it likes that kind of thing.
A little boy asks Georgia when Rachel arrives in her mini-dress and oversized sunglasses, "Do we have to like her?"
"No," Georgia replies, you don't have to like Rachel, or the movie. But there's certainly no reason not to. Just don't bring the kids.
"Georgia Rule" (113 minutes, wide release) is rated R for sexual content and some language.
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