Georgia Rule (Universal Pictures, R)

film_georgia_smJust when the material is too close to home or unsettling, screenwriter Mark Andrus pulls the audience back with a true bit of real-life humor to give the scene levity and to give the viewer a moment to breathe.

 

 

 

 

Few movies are able to accurately capture the subtle nuances and barely observable traits that make families what they are. There is something almost impossible to pinpoint in each family that makes them unique from any other; something that, without it, would make the family less real. At first glance, it appears Georgia Rule will be just another coming-of-age/generational differences light comedy. In fact, it is a heartfelt, very dark comedy that puts out in the open everything that makes one family completely distinctive.

Rachel (Lindsay Lohan) is a spoiled party girl from San Francisco who is sentenced by her mother, Lily (Felicity Huffman), to spend the summer in Idaho with her overbearing and controlling grandmother, Georgia (Jane Fonda). Lily and Georgia have a very poor and awkward relationship. Likewise, Rachel and Lily have a strained relationship that has been pushed to its breaking point. A summer in Idaho, Lily thinks, will help straighten Rachel out before she heads to college in the fall.

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Very soon, we see Georgia is no ordinary grandmother and foul-mouthed Rachel is going to have to make some changes. She attempts to keep her wild ways going by flirting with every man she meets, including the local veterinarian, Simon (Dermot Mulroney), and good boy Mormon Harlan (Garrett Hedlund).

The reason Georgia Rule is so wonderful and entertaining is how it takes a simple premise that could have easily turned into a loaded metaphor-laden mushfest and makes it real and truthful because no character is perfect or has the one answer that carries the message of the movie. Everyone is a mess because in real life, everyone is a mess.

Screenwriter Mark Andrus has gained much-deserved praise for his previous scripts such as Life as a House and As Good as It Gets. If you are familiar with his work, you know what to expect with Georgia Rule. Like his other movies, he addresses dark, personal issues with a sense of humor in order to assuage the audience's discomfort. Just when the material is too close to home or unsettling, he pulls the audience back with a true bit of real-life humor to give the scene levity and to give the viewer a moment to breathe.

Director Garry Marshall has removed virtually all traces of conventional Hollywood storytelling. The sappy music is practically nonexistent, favoring a harder rock soundtrack to echo the difficult emotions and relationships that are encountered. Focusing on the gorgeous, bucolic scenery of Idaho, of which there is plenty, allows the characters to blend into their surroundings, save Rachel who is meant to stick out anywhere she is present.

Which leads us to Lohan as the central character and actress of the movie. Her off-screen antics and stints in rehab have become quite the distraction in recent years. However, they have also made her the perfect person to fill this role. Lohan is exceptional as Rachel, using her raw sexuality as a way to make her character believable. Not only does she carry the movie in both comedic and serious moments, she opens up to show a vulnerable and lost child who has a long way to go before she can ever lead a normal life.

Georgia Rule is funny and sad, revealing and enigmatic. In short, it is exactly like a family, with dysfunctional relationships kept together by habit, force and love. | Matt Newlin

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