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Georgia Rule (2007)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 9/4/2007

All Ratings out of
Audio: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/4/2007

I wonder which one Jane Fonda regrets more, visiting North Vietnam in 1972 and forever being known as "Hanoi Jane", or continuing her movement away from retirement by appearing in Georgia Rule. Something tells me that it may be the latter.

Georgia Rule tells the story of three generations of women. Lilly (Felicity Huffman) has decided that she can no longer control her daughter, Rachel (Lindsay Lohan), so the two have traveled from San Francisco to Hull, Idaho so that Rachel can spend the summer with her grandmother, Georgia (Jane Fonda). Even before they reach the town, Lilly and Rachel are arguing, and Rachel exits the car. While traveling to town on-foot, Rachel meet Harlan (Garrett Hedlund), a good-natured farm-boy, and Simon (Dermot Mulroney), the town veterinarian, and she flirts with both of them. Rachel finally reaches Georgia’s house, where the two immediately clash, as Rachel states that she won’t follow Georgia’s famous “rules”. Rachel soon learns that Georgia isn’t someone to trifle with and she finds herself working in Simon’s office. In her spare time, she learns more about Harlan, who is terribly uncomfortable around this precocious girl. Rachel then reveals a dark secret about her childhood -- one which would explain her outlandish behavior -- and Georgia and Lilly must decide if they believe this girl who has a history of lying. If she’s telling the truth, all of their lives will change.

I have to admit that I was exaggerating in my opening statement and Georgia Rule isn’t exactly the train-wreck which I thought that it would be. But, having said that, it’s not a very good movie and it’s rare to see a movie with this much talent behind it go so horribly wrong.

One never wants to point fingers when critiquing a film, but much of the blame for the issues in Georgia Rule must go to director Garry Marshall. Marshall has directed many hit films, such as Pretty Woman, Beaches, and The Princess Diaries, but at age 73, he may be losing his touch. (Of course, Marshall has had his share of stinkers as well. Exit to Eden anyone?) He doesn’t seem to know what to do with the material here. In essence, Georgia Rule is a very serious film about a very disturbed young woman who is part of a very dysfunctional family. But, despite the melodrama going on in the movie, Marshall makes everything light and fluffy, which simply comes across as disconcerting. On one of the featurettes on the DVD, Marshall states that he usually makes “comedy-dramas”, but this movie is a “drama-comedy”. And while there were a few humorous moments, the bulk of the film is dark and depressing, but I’m not sure if Marshall knew this. There are also some pacing issues with the film, as it seems quite redundant in the middle. (And why do so many shots either begin or end on the ground or a floor? Was the cameraman constantly falling over?)

The other problems in Georgia Rule are a combination of the story and the casting. Writer Mark Andrus was nominated for many awards for As Good as it Gets, and he also wrote Life as a House. But, there is nothing original going on in Georgia Rule, and the story feels like something that we’ve seen dozens of times before. Films such as Terms of Endearment, Thirteen, and even TV shows like The Gilmore Girls have portrayed the tumultuous relationships which can exist between mothers and daughters, and they’ve done it in a more dramatic fashion. Almost everything here feels very cliched and the story never rises above a movie made for LifeTime. There’s also the fact that the movie can’t decide if its about a troubled family or a fish-out-of-water who disrupts a small town. In the end, it doesn’t spend enough time on either.

Given the rather pedestrian trappings of the script, one has to wonder how this caliber of talent was lured into Georgia Rule. A bit question mark must go beside Jane Fonda’s name. She chose her second role after being away from movies for 15 years to be this movie? Why? And to add insult to injury, her character never gets fully developed. I’m not a huge fan of Felicty Huffman, but she’s good here as a mother whose own issues keep her from being the kind of parent that she’d like to be. And then we have Lindsay Lohan. We’ll give the movie the benefit of the doubt and assume that her tabloid troubles hadn’t reached boiling point when production on Georgia Rule started. But, we all know what happening during shooting of the movie, as the executive producer published a letter berating the actress for her behavior. The bottom-line is that watching the film today, when we see Lohan playing a spoiled rich girl, all that we see is Lindsay Lohan and not Rachel. That aside, Lohan isn’t up to the task of the emotions which Rachel is meant to convey, and therefore the viewer never knows how to feel about her.

Lindsay Lohan’s personal problems seemed to be all over the media this summer, and Georgia Rule got caught in this mix and was made an example of the starlet’s crumbling life. While the movie isn’t a complete disaster, it is a true misfire for director Garry Marshall. The movie tackles some dark issues in a very awkward manner and never truly finds its footing. Jane Fonda is wasted in her role and Lohan is out-classed by Fonda and Huffman. This movie does many things, but it certainly doesn’t rule.

Georgia Rule struts onto DVD courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has come to DVD in two separate releases, one full-frame and the other widescreen. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks good, as the picture is sharp and clear. The image shows no defects from the source material and there’s only a mild amount of visible grain. The colors look fine and the skin tones are natural. I didn’t see any notable video noise, distortion, or artifacting. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. Being a dialogue-driven drama, we are treated to clear and intelligible dialogue with no hissing or distortion. The stereo effects are fine and the in-movie music is reproduced very nicely. There are sparse moments of surround-sound during a festival scene.

The Georgia Rule DVD has a smattering of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from director Garry Marshall. If you’ve ever heard a Marshall commentary, then you know what to expect. If not, be prepared for a rambling talk, as the director touches on many subjects and alternates talking to us as if we know nothing about filmmaking or like we’re about to go out and make our own movie. He talks at length about the location and the actors, but doesn’t delve too much into the story. Marshall also lends an optional commentary to the 10 DELETED SCENES which run about 9 minutes. (And demonstrate what the “matte” process looks like.) Most of these scenes are insignificant, but there are three alternate endings, which show various fates of the Cary Elwes character. The DVD has a 7-minute GAG REEL. “The Making of Georgia Rule” (8 minutes) has some behind-the-scenes footage and a lot of comments from Marshall who admits, “This was the lowest budget that I ever shot with.” Fonda, Huffman, and Lohan are profiled in “The Women of Georgia Rule” (7 minutes). We get more behind-the-scenes footage of Marshall in “On Set with Garry Marshall” (5 minutes), where he gives his take on the film. The final extra is the film’s THEATRICAL TRAILER.

Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long