Regardless of whether or not you think she deserves what she's getting, Lindsay Lohan must be feeling pretty rotten these days and I can't help but to feel a little sympathetic, even if it's just the slightest bit. So, in honor of Lohan's downfall, while everyone else is knocking the once promising actress, I'm going to give her a little credit. In fact, I'll do so for a film that not only marked the starting point of her demise, but one that got universally panned as well, Georgia Rule.
The film stars Lohan as Rachel Wilcox, a rotten city kid who's sent to spend the summer with her grandmother, Georgia (Jane Fonda), in hopes it'll straighten her out. Rachel's mother, Lilly (Felicity Huffman), may let her get away with misbehaving at home, but at Georgia's Idaho abode, things are different and Rachel must abide by "Georgia Rule." When Rachel isn't getting her mouth washed out with soap, she's either working at the vet Simon's (Dermot Mulroney) office or trying to corrupt the local golden boy Harlan (Garrett Hedlund). Rachel manages to squeeze by committing only a handful of atrocities until one of her stories takes things a bit too far. When Rachel tells Simon her mother's boyfriend molested her, he tells Georgia who tells Rachel's mother who returns to Idaho to straighten things out during which the harbored frustrations between three generations boil over.
Georgia Rule was put at a major disadvantage even before the film hit theaters. Back in 2006, word got out about a little letter from the CEO of Morgan Creek Production, James G. Robinson, to Lohan in which he called her "unprofessional" and threatened to hold her accountable for any financial damages her actions cause. Of course there's no knowing for sure, but as Robinson points out in the letter, all of the trouble might have had a little something to do with Lohan's "ongoing all night heavy partying."
Despite Robinson's concern for the quality of this film, Georgia Rule came out quite well, or at least the best it could have. If there was an animosity between the cast members concerning Lohan's bad behavior, I don't see it at all. Every major performance is spot on and the relationships between the characters are quite believable. That being said, these roles are a little two-dimensional and twisted as is the whole concept of the film, but it works.
As compared to other films of the snobby-girl-forced-to-move-to-country category, there's something about the characters in Georgia Rule that makes them relatable even with their outlandish behavior. The campy comedy of films like Sweet Home Alabama and New in Town turn Reese Witherspoon and Renee Zellweger's characters into out-of-their-element caricatures. However, Georgia Rule implores a darker comedy, a comedy that occasionally hits at awkward moments, but it's that unusual use of humor that makes the film different and interesting. Those looking for classic laugh-out-loud moments will undeniably be disappointed because the comedy in Georgia Rule isn't really the raucous type. The reaction to the more humorous moments in this film is more of a "Wow, did she really just do that?"
The problem is, that's also the same reaction that most of Lohan's actions at the time and still today cause. It's way too easy to draw parallels between Lohan's real life behavior and her character's antics in this film. It's practically instinctive to want to put her down for her bad behavior in Georgia Rule as a natural reaction to the young actress ruining her career in reality. Whether her success as Rachel comes from her similarities to the character or not, she's incredible in the role. There is something so effortless and natural in Lohan's performance that she far outshines her more seasoned costars, Huffman and Fonda. However, that's not to say that they don't put a good show on as well.
Their characters are most powerful during the moments they share with Lohan's, but there's one in particular that doesn't include Rachel that is unforgettable, Lilly's drunken outburst. First off, there's something eerily hilarious about Lilly getting so wasted she feels compelled to give herself a dreadful haircut, but then the moment almost completely shifts gears and enters dramatic territory going for the heart by showing Lilly and Georgia take a step towards mending their relationship.
So few of the film's assets are recognized and I blame that on preconceived notions. Not only was the production a developmental mess thanks to Lohan, but her bad reputation in reality changed her reputation on screen as well. Then, of course, it didn't help that Rachel is just as much of a nasty brat. Georgia Rule's real killer though was it being branded as a comedy. There are a hefty handful of funny moments, particularly watching Georgia chase Rachel down the street with a bar of soap and Georgia trying to covertly purchase Lilly's alcohol supply, but the film isn't really a comedy. If anything, it's a dark comedy. The purpose of Georgia Rule isn't to have the audience consider things like alcoholism and sexual abuse and laugh at them, it's to find the absurdity in them. Rachel flip-flopping between claiming she's been raped and claiming she hasn't may trip over itself at points, but it's just trying to show that Rachel is confused herself. She's desperate for attention, yet the one thing that actually requires she receives some, she isn't comfortable exposing.
I'd have cleaned up a chunk of Georgia Rule if given the opportunity, but the film's story arch is meant to be a bit messy; it's honest. The only thing that's really wrong with Georgia Rule is everything but the movie itself. Should Lohan have behaved properly on set and not doused it in her personal drama, perhaps the overall reception would have been more in her favor.