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Reviewing the Reviews: 'Georgia Rule'

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Rule_l

Rule_lTake note: Despite its marketably cutesy three-generations-of-difficult-women draw, Georgia Rule would be a very bad movie to see on Mother’s Day. You’d be better off renting Terms of Endearment, popping the seal off something with “Entenmann’s” on it, and calling it a day.

Director Garry Marshall’s latest, which stars Lindsay Lohan, Jane Fonda, and Felicity Huffman, received exceedingly poor reviews, all of which in some way made the obvious connection between Lohan’s inability to show up for work after her typical all-night benders on Rule‘s set last summer and the irresponsible wild-child train wreck she plays in the movie. “You wonder whether the role required much acting,” said USA Today‘s Claudia Puig, and EW‘s Owen Gleiberman concurs: “Lohan hits a true note of spiteful princess narcissism. Unfortunately, it’s the only note the film allows her to play.”

For some, producer James G. Robinson’s much-publicized letter toLohan telling her to shape up should have been a glaring hint thatmaybe the movie shouldn’t have even been made. The combination ofLohan’s antics and bad press made Puig wish Robinson had just called itoff, and according to the Toronto Star‘s Peter Howell, “Lohan would have done everyone a favour if she’d stopped the show entirely.”

Lohan’s performance — which may have had something to do with herinsufferable character — hit a nerve with many critics who doubt herleading-lady chops. The Boston Globe‘sTy Burr called the “dreadfully executed” film a mere humiliation forFonda and Huffman, but “for Lohan, it’s something worse: hard evidenceshe can’t act.” James Verniere of the Boston Herald agreed: “Lohan lets her heaving breasts and flashing thighs do all the work.”

Maybe they should blame the complete unbelievablity of her character– a relentless slut and superficial brat who’s also really smart andheaded to Vassar in the fall. (What?) Aside from coming up with thebest headline of the day — “It Blohans” — the New York Post‘s Kyle Smith complained, “My head nearly detached from my neck when she cited Ezra Pound.”

Others defended Lohan, like TV Guide‘s Ken Fox, who said the “talented Lohan isn’t what’s wrong with this misbegotten mess.” The Chicago Sun-Times‘ Richard Roeper called Rule “Lohan’s best work to date,” and William Arnold of the Seattle Post-Intelligencersaid Lohan “wins out over Huffman’s comic drunk and Fonda’s leatheryevocation of her father, Henry, in On Golden Pond.” And according tothe Village Voice‘sElla Taylor, “A self-possessed, intelligent screen presence, [Lohan]can outgun almost any caricature, including a parody of herself.” Iguess the real question, then, is whether Lohan was even acting.

Fonda’s performance, which can be seen as her second comeback after 2005’s dud Monster-in-Law,also got mixed reviews. Roeper called Fonda’s Georgia “the genuinething… We believe she’s lived in that little slice of Americana for along time.” But other critics found something a little off with Fonda’scharacter, blaming the poor script and direction. Howell noticed Fondawas reciting her Idaho-hayseed lines with obvious chagrin: “I don’tthink I’ve seen an actress in this much distress from a bad scriptsince Maggie Smith was forced to mumble the ‘ya-ya’ chant from Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood -– which was also penned by [Rule‘sscreenwriter] Mark Andrus, not so coincidentally.” Puig commented thatFonda did her best with what she was given: “You can almost see theresignation in her performance, as if she knows she’s on a sinkingship.”

Most agreed that director Marshall, out of his element with thismovie, was to blame for the actors’ disjointed performances. “Fondagets no help whatsoever from Marshall, who is so deaf to the dark toneof his film, he seems to think he’s helming another laugher like Pretty Woman or Runaway Briderather than the drama of sexual abuse it really is,” wrote Howell. Andaccording to Smith, “Handing Garry Marshall a story about child sexualabuse and an ugly mother-daughter rivalry is a little like askingJessica Simpson to sing Wagner.” Ouch.

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