Written by Mark Andrus
Directed by Garry Marshall
Running Time: 1:53
for sexual content and some language.
Georgia Rule wasn't the happy-go-lucky feel-good movie I thought it was going to be, but all in all it was a decent film.
Lilly and her daughter Rachel aren't getting along, so during the summer before she starts college, Rachel is shuffled off to her grandmother's house in the middle of Utah. Rachel doesn't like being told what to do, but when you're in Georgia's house, you follow Georgia's rules. Rachel has a secret that is disturbing but she plays it off as not being very serious. The people around her aren't sure what to believe about her and everyone seems to take a side. Throughout it all, her grandmother sticks by her and when her mother reappears, before the dust can settle, the family has to explode.
Just from the promotional material, and the everybody's smiling poster, I kind of figured Georgia Rule would be a dramedy where everyone hates each other at first, but by the end of the film would get along. And for the most part I was right, except... Generally in these kinds of movies there is some event that happens that brings everyone together. Maybe someone gets cancer, or someone's dog dies, or someone gets pregnant. Whatever it is, whatever issues the family members have before, this event appears towards the end of the film and all bad feelings are forgotten. In Georgia Rule there is an issue/event that occurs, but...
I don't want to give it away so I'll try really hard to talk around it. But when it first comes up, it's almost as an aside to another conversation. It's dropped in then quickly pushed aside. For the rest of the film you're not quite sure what the truth is, but it's big enough that it could shatter the entire family and others as well. Therein lays the biggest problem with the movie. The issue is huge and disturbing, but most of the time it's kept in the background and the movie goes more for laughs. I had a hard time trying to figure out what I was supposed to be feeling or thinking while I was watching. Should I feel bad for Rachel? Should I laugh alongside her? Was her destructive side something to find funny or something to find troubling? I think with this particular story element the film had to walk a very fine line and I'm not completely sure it did that.
The performances from the leading ladies were all wonderful. Jane Fonda played the matriarch of the family, rigid in her rules and never changing, no matter what the situation. I think we could have gone more into her background, especially in her relationship with her daughter Lilly (Felicity Huffman) but the movie was more about Rachel so I can sort of understand why the elder pairing was backburnered. Huffman was strong as the woman caught in the middle of two strained mother-daughter relationships. She never could figure out her own mother, so how was she expected to be a good mother to her own daughter? And say what you will about Lindsay Lohan and her private life, but on screen she sparkles. Her sexually charged Rachel dominated the screen and she was able to pull off the duality of her character. Going from tough chick to sensitive and troubled teen was no problem for her. And she looked good doing it. The rest of the cast (mostly males) were along for the ride. It was better for them to stay out of the way of the powerhouse trio and let them do their work. They were there to help move the story along, but not interfere with it. While some of the characters did have important roles to play, the writer and director knew enough not to focus on them.
It was really just that single story strand that really held me up. If it had been something simple I would have enjoyed the movie more. At the same time I do have to give credit to the writer for being willing to take on a darker story and having it weave in and out of the film. It does give the movie a different feel than other similar films in the genre, but at the same time it's much darker and disturbing at its heart than you might expect. Since I can't figure out how I'm supposed to feel I can't fully appreciate the film for what it was. When the film tried to be funny, it was and it worked well. When it would dip into seriousness, it sometimes felt contrived and over thought out. It never quite reached a happy medium.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, Georgia Rule was a good film, but with a story that was different than you might imagine. If you can handle the darker elements, you'll enjoy a film with some strong laughs and a serious edge. But I think a lot of people might be turned off by throwing this darker story line in there, and at times treating it as something that just sort of happened.
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