Three noisy women and a worn-out premise rattle around in Georgia Rule, an incoherent dramedy of rampant parental insufficiency from director Garry Marshall. Marshall’s broad comedy has always made him a soft target for critics, but along with his duds (Runaway Bride springs unbidden to mind), he’s made a few charming women’s pictures. Georgia Rule isn’t one of them.
Earnest doesn’t become Marshall, who has gleaned his notions about dysfunctional families from Oprah and Dr. Phil. Rachel (Lindsay Lohan), a wild teen who has sinned and lied about it one time too many times, is dispatched by her willfully myopic lush of a mother (Felicity Huffman) to Idaho, where, it is hoped, she will undergo a character makeover at the hand of her rule-bound grandmother Georgia (Jane Fonda) and a town of smiling Mormons. Notwithstanding her frequent invocation of the Almighty, Georgia gives as good as she gets, exhorting her grandchild to go fuck herself and stuffing soap into the child’s blasphemous mouth as needed.
The best that can be said for Fonda’s role is that it is marginally less gruesome than the manipulative maternal virago she played two years ago in Monster-in-Law. But once the family skeleton marches out of its closet and the therapeutic blather sets in, there’s almost no rescuing this wobbly movie from its showdowns and insights.
Except, that is, when Lohan’s around.
Beginning with The Parent Trap and on through Freaky Friday, Mean Girls, and A Prairie Home Companion, there’s scarcely been a movie that this gifted young actress hasn’t made her own, unless you count the unsalvageable Herbie: Fully Loaded. A self-possessed, intelligent screen presence, she can outgun almost any caricature, including a parody of herself. Sullen at having been dumped in Hicksville, Rachel aims her indiscriminating libido simultaneously at a vet (Dermot Mulroney) and a young Mormon blade (Garrett Hedlund). She stays out late, lies—maybe—through her teeth, and creates mayhem. So, yes, Georgia Rule might profitably be retitled The Lindsay Lohan Story, but peeking out from all the strutting and preening is a strong, decent person in the making. With luck that same person may yet rise up to deliver Lohan—whose well-documented freak-out occurred on the set of
Georgia Rule—from her off-screen antics.