Shallow Portrayals 

'Georgia Rule' wastes a fun performance by Jane Fonda

Garry Marshall, the man cool enough to create Happy Days but evil enough to have inflicted Beaches upon us, directs a real mishmash with the sloppy Georgia Rule. Some respectable performances and funny moments are done in by a daring plot that mishandles some sensitive subjects.

The film starts with young rebel Rachel (Lindsay Lohan) jumping out of the car driven by her mother, Lilly (Felicity Huffman), somewhere near Idaho as a result of some unseen argument. Crazy Rachel immediately commences bad behavior when she meets up with Harlan (Garrett Hedlund), a religion-obsessed virgin, and sullen Simon (Dermot Mulroney), a widower who treats both animals and humans at his veterinary hospital. These are just two of the men who will get mixed up in Rachel's tumultuous life.

The purpose of the trip was to drop off Rachel with cantankerous Grandma Georgia (Jane Fonda, in her second film back from semi-retirement). Rachel has been screwing up at home, allegedly taking drugs, so Mommy figures a good dose of Grandma will straighten her out. Georgia is a hot granny who hangs out with a couple of young kids and lays down the law of her house by consistently squawking the film's title. Her big punishment is to make her granddaughter wash her mouth out with soap for using the lord's name in vain, a joke that worked well in A Christmas Story, but not so much this time.

Marshall and company throw a whole bunch of stuff into the pot, with only some of it cooking to edible levels. Rachel has a lot of baggage for a young woman, including possible molestation by her stepfather (Cary Elwes, still getting jobs despite being one of the planet's worst actors). This revelation brings Lilly back to Georgia's house, where she starts drinking and gives herself a terrible haircut. Huffman plays a painfully stereotypical drunk; all that's missing is her drinking from a bottle in a paper bag and singing repeated choruses of "Sweet Adeline."

Lohan is a decent actress, and she is required to endure some rather wretched scenes, including a few awkward ones with Mulroney. The film employs an obvious textbook psychology in trying to explain why Rachel is so rebellious and promiscuous. It then tries to lighten the mood with the kind of sophomoric, sitcom humor that would be more at home in Marshall's Mork and Mindy.

Even though the film is a failure, it's still cool to see Fonda back at work. She's yet to find a comeback project worthy of her (this one is only mildly better than Monster-in-Law), but she hasn't lost any of her spark. The film actually resembles On Golden Pond in some ways, the film she made with her dad and Katharine Hepburn 26 years ago. Cool trivia note: Fonda is only four years younger than Hepburn was when she starred in Pond. Other cool trivia note: Fonda is much hotter than Hepburn was in her 70s. Proof that aerobics work!

It's respectable that the film tries to portray sensitive subjects; it's unfortunate how shallow those portrayals are. It's a dark comedy with brutal language and subject matter, masquerading as a family comedy. Those going to the movie with expectations of a feel-good laugh riot will be disappointed.

Throw Georgia Rule onto the pile of disheartening films to start off the summer. It's much better than, say, Kickin' It Old Skool, but still doesn't pass for anything close to decent. I can't catch a good movie to save my life right now. I'm feeling like a lonely surfer trying to catch a wave whilst paddling in some 10-foot-deep pond in the middle of Oklahoma. Please, let the good movies come soon.

Georgia Rule
Rated NR

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Chicago Reader Jane Fonda works it out Jane Fonda stars in Bruce Beresford's Peace, Love and Misunderstanding by J.R. Jones 06/06/2012

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