'Georgia Rule': Out of Control

Friday, May 11, 2007

Just what we need least: a warm family comedy about child molestation.

That's "Georgia Rule," which combines battleship actresses of the "Steel Magnolias" variety, fall-down-go-boom comedy that was obsolete in the '30s, Lindsay Lohan's cleavage and intergenerational fondling just for kicks.

The setting is Hull, Idaho -- well, the setting is Hollywood pretending to be Hull, Idaho -- a picturesque small town where widow Georgia (Jane Fonda) lives by the same unbending rules that have seen her through her whole life: each meal on time, early to bed, early to rise, repression unacknowledged but the powerful force in her life, emotions willed to nothingness. Into this narrow but ordered existence come her messy but rich daughter, Lilly (Felicity Huffman), and her total train wreck of a granddaughter, Rachel (Lohan).

Neurotic Lilly is married to Arnold (Cary Elwes), a wealthy San Francisco lawyer, but she has never really recovered from her mother's lack of affection. She has grudges. But her more immediate problem is her child. Rachel is 17, sexually aggressive, a chronic liar and seducer, a manipulator, an all-around nasty kid headed to Vassar at the end of the summer.

One problem is that Lohan isn't 17; she's 20 and looks about 35. With her fully developed woman's body, her potty mouth, her makeup-slathered eyes and a wardrobe of frilly, feathery things that just keep slipping off, she looks like she's just in from a night of drunken clubbing. You wonder: What is this adult doing in this child's role? She should be running a brothel in Nevada, not working in a vet's office.

Another problem: The movie has an ugly strain of anti-Mormonism throughout. It's unfortunate and heavy-handed.

But the issue, as I say, is child molestation. Has Arnold been molesting Rachel? That becomes the narrative issue, though it's difficult to see brassy Rachel as any sort of victim.

-- Stephen Hunter

Georgia Rule R, 115 minutes Contains language and sexual innuendo. Area theaters.

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