Georgia Rule

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Chick-flick aficionados beware: This week, a group of cynical, no doubt cigar-chomping, mustache-twirling Hollywood execs are trying to pull one over on you. They've gathered together three generations of double-X-chromosome icons — Jane Fonda for the anti-war boomers, Felicity Huffman for the remaining pre-menopausal Desperate Housewives fans and Lindsay Lohan for the perpetually text-messaging, preteen alcoholic set — in the hopes that you'll shell out your hard-earned cash, hand over manicured fist.

Sure, a bad chick flick is about as common as an ad for Massengill douche during The View. But while Georgia Rule's trailers may promise an orgy of motherly love and a sermon on the resilience of the feminine spirit, it's clear about 10 minutes into the film that writer Mark Andrus and director Garry Marshall might, in fact, actually hate women. The contempt is right up there on the screen: The movie portrays its grandma-mother-daughter triad as easily duped buffoons lacking anything resembling intuition, backbone or decent eye makeup. It believes that the only things the fairer sex needs to get by in life are a brawny, simple man and the ability to cook three square meals a day — although, judging by Huffman and Fonda's pipe-cleaner musculature, they've been fasting since the Clinton administration.

Chief among Georgia Rule's crimes against womankind is its use of molestation as a plot device, as the script dangles like a carrot the possibility that Lohan's oversexed, undermedicated high-school senior Rachel might have been serially raped by her stepfather (a bloated Cary Elwes) between the ages of 12 and 14. While the movie plays a sick is-she-or-isn't-she-telling-the-truth game, we're subjected to perhaps some of the worst acting ever perpetrated by the miscast Fonda, reduced to playing an osteoporotic, anal-retentive tyrant prone to sub-Leave It to Beaver demands like "wash your mouth out with soap right now!"

But it's Huffman's fans who may feel the most betrayed, watching the formerly reliable character actress do a campy impersonation of a drunk diva and fight her way through lines like "She was on crank and K and ex and sneaking off to raves!" The movie's arguable nadir — there are so many lows to choose from — is a scene in which she blames herself for not realizing she was married to a pedophile, after which former flame Dermot Mulroney tactfully responds, "Yeah, I don't know how you missed that." Cue the hot 'n' horny fortysomething makeout scene: Blame and self-loathing is this movie's idea of an aphrodisiac.

Considering how schizo Georgia Rule is, it's almost by default that Lohan, such an avowed train wreck in real life, ends up being an oasis of calm amid all the overacting. She has trouble in the early scenes establishing Rachel as an unrepentant, grown-up-too-fast slut — acting can be ironic that way — but when the script's melodramatic mechanics kick in, she's the only member of the cast still able to channel a genuine human emotion. It's odd how the qualities that make her a paparazzi magnet — her desperation, her willingness to self-destruct, her obliviousness to the cameras that surround her — are the very same that may, in fact, allow her to be a great actress one day. Provided she doesn't die first.

Michael Hastings writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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