© 2007 Ray Wong
For her second outing after her long "retirement," Jane Fonda seems to have established her preference for working with Hollywood's hottest actresses du jour. Much of the film's publicity has been about Lindsay Lohan's bad behaviors on and off the set. Perhaps she was staying in character as bad girl Rachel.
Rachel (Lindsay Lohan) is a seventeen-year-old troublemaker from San Francisco. To teach her a lesson, her mother, Lilly (Felicity Huffman) strong-arms Rachel to spend the summer with grandma Georgia in Idaho. Georgia is known for her strict rules, and Lilly hopes she would knock some senses into Rachel, even though Lilly herself can't stand Georgia.
Right off the bat, Rachel breaks all the rules Georgia sets forth. The only things that keep her entertained are Harlan (Garrett Hedlund), a young Mormon man ready to embark on his two-year mission, and Simon (Dermot Mulroney), a handsome veterinarian who also treats human patients. Rachel has a lot of fun raising hell in the quiet small town until Georgia learns of her dark secret. When Lily returns to town to confront Rachel, the three women must find their places in this twisted web of broken relationships.
Jane Fonda (Monster In-Law) looks stunning for her age. All those years of aerobics must have worked out. While her performance is nuanced and meticulous, her role is subdue and somewhat restrained, especially compared to her flashier role in Monster In-Law. She has some great lines and scenes, but over all, I find her characterization a bit undercooked.
Lindsay Lohan (Bobby) has all the fun playing party girl on and off screen, but we can't help but recognize her talent. She reminds me of Christina Ricci in The Opposite of Sex: sexy, scheming, unflinching. Yet she shows enough vulnerability that we wonder what's going on in this girl's head. Felicity Huffman (Transamerica), surprisingly, is the weakest link among the actresses of three different generations. Compared to Fonda's restrained granny and Lohan's wild child, Huffman's portrayal of a middle aged woman looking for love seems overdone and over the top. She seems a bit too comical for the drama; she seems out of place.
The men are in fine forms, albeit underutilized. Dermot Mulroney (Zodiac) is affecting as the virtuous, gentle vet with a history. As the object of Rachel's affection, Garrett Hedlund (Eragon) is wonderfully bewildered and ernest. Cary Elwes (Walk the Talk) has made a name for himself playing boyish, charming creeps, and he delivers once again. Dylan McLaughlin (Bones) and Zachary Gordon (Sex and Death 101) both give controlled performances as two young bothers. Hector Elizondo (The Celestine Prophecy) and Laurie Metcalf (Meet the Robinsons) have small cameos.
Written by Mark Andrus (Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood), who excels in "chick flicks" including his Oscar-winning As Good as It Gets, the script does feel bloated with estrogen. Clearly, females are the target audience. Part The Opposite of Sex and part Steel Magnolia, the story focuses on the relationships among grandma, ma, and daughter. The main question is "Do you ever love me?" Simple yet complicated. The problem with Andrus's screenplay is that it deals with the subject matters with a heavy hand. It also loses focus -- is it a comedy or a drama? It's often too heavy for a comedy, and not deep enough for a drama. Also, there are enough coincidences to risk losing our suspension of disbelief, and part of the plot feels cliched, contrived, and manipulative. The characters lose their credibility when faced with some of the choices they make -- they somehow become caricatures.
Director Garry Marshall (The Princess Diaries) has a lot of experience making movies for women. By and large, his decision to plunge us right into the situations and slowly reveal the characters works out pretty well. At times, though, the plot lacks focus and it seems to go all over the place. As a character study, it doesn't go deep enough. At the end of the film, we still don't know much about Georgia, the titular character. The film also feels disjointed, and the relationships between these three women suffer from underdevelopment, which undermines the final emotional payoff.
While it's not a bad movie, Georgia Rule is too preachy and manipulative to make a true impact. There are not enough laughs, and I think even women looking for a good cry would be underwhelmed. There should be a Garry rule that Garry Marshall sticks with comedies from now on.
Stars: Jane Fonda, Lindsay Lohan, Felicity Huffman, Dermot Mulroney, Cary Elwes, Garrett Hedlund
Director: Garry Marshall
Writer: Mark Andrus
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, language
Running Time: 113 Minutes
Script – 6
Performance – 7
Direction – 6
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 6
Production – 7
Total –6.5 out of 10