Director Garry Marshall loves the world of the romantic comedy so much that he rarely veers away from it. From “Overboard” (1987) to “Raising Helen” (2001), he just never feels the urge to direct anything less. Imagine if he tried to direct an action film or a western? Does he not ever get tired of tackling the same themes? “Georgia Rule” is just another Lifetime movie given a theatrical run due to the fact that it somehow pulled in bigger stars than it deserves.
Rachel (Lindsay Lohan) is a spoiled (and promiscuous) teenager who finally got on the last nerve of both her mother Lilly (Felicity Huffman) and her stepfather Arnold (Cary Elwes). Lilly packs her bags and sends her to stay with her grandmother Georgia (Jane Fonda), a strict Mormon living in small town Idaho, much to the dismay of Rachel. Soon we discover that her stepfather molested Rachel when she was younger and that this may in fact be the cause of her actions. Lilly has a hard time believing this accusation and isn’t quite sure how to deal with the issue other than by drinking even more alcohol than she already does. And then the family drama explodes onto screen as Lilly and Georgia deal with their rocky past and Lilly and Rachel attempt to work past this pesky molestation problem.
Writer Mark Andrus (“As Good as It Gets” and “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood”) has made a career out of dealing with the somewhat dysfunctional. It’s only natural to think that he could somehow come up with a way to add something fresh and new to the mix. It seems that screenwriters of our generation don’t pay any attention to things they learned in film school. For instance, I think it’s safe to say that the laziest thing a writer can do in their screenplay is have a character tell another that, “I love you.” This film is certainly no different as characters exchange it more often than not, especially towards the end. Whatever happened to relying on actors portraying such emotion without having to say the words? Think back to “Casablanca” for a second; we didn’t have to hear Ilsa tell Rick that she loved him every minute of screen time. We as an audience could tell by their performances alone.
This film also has a hard time trying to figure out what it wants to be. Advertisements allow us to think it’s simply a fish-out-of-water type comedy (with city-raised Rachel being thrown into the Mormon-run small town). Then it turns into the stepfather-molested-me-so-I-now-I-hate-my-mom-and-became-a-slut drama while merging onto romantic comedy street. “Georgia Rule” isn’t serious enough for a drama and not funny enough for a comedy. Take all of that – the clichéd melodramatics and the over usage of the term “I love you” – and mix that with an R-rating and what you have here is a movie geared towards the teenage female set that can only be viewed by adults. So the only people who would be attracted to actually watching this film aren’t going to be able to watch it anyway.
In 1990, Jane Fonda starred in “Stanley and Iris” with Robert De Niro, and then decided to leave planet Earth for a really long time. 15 years would go by before moviegoers would once again be graced by her screen presence (if that’s what you want to call it). “Monster-in-Law” (2005) marked her cinematic return and for all intents and purposes, no one can really figure out why she picked such a simple role in such an idiotic film. It’s clear that Fonda is no longer in the game for challenging roles and “Georgia Rule” is another example of her carefree attitude towards acting, a craft she was once considered great in. But if someone offered me a few million to star in some Garry Marshall film, I’d sign up faster than Tom Sizemore can score some crystal meth. I mean the guy did direct “Exit to Eden” (1994), which exposed us to Rosie O’Donnell in some leather bondage gear, so that has to be worth something.