Somewhere deep inside “Georgia Rule” is a tough family drama dying to get out.
It's too bad that film gets smothered by a tri-generational chick flick looking to cash in on the “Steel Magnolias” crowd. The result is a wildly uneven movie that's all over the map and leaves viewers feeling uncomfortable - with the film tackling intense subject matter (alcoholism and sexual abuse) against the backdrop of one of those sitcom-type small towns, where everyone is eccentric.
“Georgia Rule” tells the story of a rebellious, out-of-control teen named Rachel (Lindsay Lohan), who is sent by her mother, Lily (Felicity Huffman), to a small Idaho town.
Lily hopes Rachel can somehow connect with her grandmother, Georgia (Jane Fonda), even though Georgia and Lily's relationship has been strained for many years.
Rachel immediately becomes a lightning rod of controversy in the small town, but Georgia soon learns of a dark secret in Rachel's past that threatens to create an even larger rift between the three women.
For the most part, the cast works really hard to make “Georgia Rule” work.
Fonda is very good in what could have been the crazy grandma role (which is exactly what director Gary Marshall attempts to make it). Lohan is very strong, showing that beyond the constant tabloid antics is a young woman capable of being a very good actress. Huffman is OK, but nowhere near as good as she was in “Transamerica.”
Unfortunately, the actors are sabotaged by Marshall and screenwriter Mark Andrus, who make the fatal decision of trying to water down its grim story with forced comedy.
Don't get me wrong, you can have a film with humor. But there is something slightly queasy about a movie that has scenes where one character is struggling with being sexually abused by her stepfather followed by scenes of a veterinarian in the town who treats the townsfolk as well as their animals.
I blame Marshall more than Andrus, because Andrus has managed to get it right before with “Life as a House” and “As Good as it Gets.” Marshall is better when he is directing a more light and fluffy film (and yes that would include “Pretty Woman”). He is just the wrong choice for “Georgia Rule” - which ultimately fails, despite some promising flashes of brilliance.
DVD dandy of the week
This week's dandy is “Pan's Labyrinth” (A) - the wonderful surprise from Guillermo del Toro that successfully uses elements of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales and “Schindler's List” to create one of the most original experiences in recent memory.
Set in 1944 Spain, “Labyrinth” tells the story Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), a young girl fascinated with fairy tales who goes with her pregnant mother to live with her new stepfather (Sergi Lopez), a ruthless captain of the Spanish army.
Ofelia soon discovers a labyrinth in the woods that is a gateway to a magical world. The young girl sets out to join this new world, but first must survive three gruesome tasks to prove herself.
“Pan's Labyrinth” perfectly captures a fairy tale-like dream world, but this is not your typical family fare. The film deals with some dark subject matter, with the captain doing some heinous acts that are unimaginably brutal and vile. It is a credit to del Toro that he is able to take what would seem like two unlikely subject matters and mold them into one incredible film.
I'm not sure if “Labyrinth” is a film that will appeal to everyone, but if you are looking for a movie that will challenge as well as amaze, then this is the one to see.
“Pan's Labyrinth” is rated R for graphic violence and some language and is available on DVD.
Starring: Jane Fonda, Lindsay Lohan
Directed by: Gary Marshall
Rating: R for sexual content and language
Playing at: Great Escape 12, Highland Cinemas (Glasgow)