First, I have to set something straight: Georgia Rule is not a comedy. There are several funny moments and a couple funny characters. But if you've seen the three smiling faces on the movie poster or watched the countless previews that make this look like this month's Because I Said So, an intergenerational female giggle and schmaltz fest, be forewarned. This is a family drama with some serious themes.
We start the movie with Rachel (Lindsey Lohan) getting her brat on in the middle of lonely Idaho highway. She and her mom, Lilly (Felicity Huffman), are having words—loud words. Rachel insists on walking the rest of the way to her grandma's house, where she'll be spending her summer. After walking a while, she takes a quick nap in the shade of a Welcome to Idaho billboard, where she's found by Harlan (Garrett Hedlund), the local young hunk, and Simon (Dermot Mulroney), the town vet. Rachel opts for the latter for a drive into down, climbing into his convertible while practically purring her sexual come-ons.
In the meantime, Lilly arrives at her mom Georgia's (Jane Fonda) house, where the two exchange awkward greetings and can't say goodbye fast enough. Rachel eventually arrives, and we learn that she's been sent to live with grandma for the summer because she's so out of control—drinking, smoking, running around with men. A "sentence" with her drill-sergeant-like grandma is her mom and stepdad's last resort before Rachel heads off to college in the fall.
Rachel and Georgia are like oil and water. Rachel's incredulous that Georgia got her a job for the summer. Georgia won't tolerate Rachel taking the Lord's name in vain—even makes her suck on a bar of soap for doing so. Rachel marches to the office where Georgia got her the summer job, prepared to quit—until she recognizes Simon as the vet for whom she'll be a receptionist. Another chance to seduce this man who's the age of her father, and who lost his wife and son in a car accident a few years prior. Rachel also goes after Harlan, especially when she realizes this teen Mormon is a virgin.
Much of the rest of the movie is Rachel's wranglings with Georgia and seducings of Simon and Harlan. We get a curveball when the reason for Rachel's wild behavior is revealed, though throughout much of the movie we don't know whether to believe her. The allegations bring Lilly back to grandma's house, where the three women finally have it out.
All three generations of women in this movie turn in strong performances, though predictably Jane Fonda trumps the other two. Whether she's playing gin with the young neighbor boys, sheepishly buying booze for her alcoholic daughter, or talking about her need for her countless "Georgia Rules," she brings an extra level of realism and depth. Lohan plays a rebellious, messed up teenager quite well, but then we expect her to. I would have liked to see a bit more pain and woundedness in scenes dealing with her serious family issues; just one or two peeks beneath the party-girl-next-door veneer would have been enough. Huffman gets the least screen time of the three and has some of the trickier scenes to pull off—being drunk, enraged at a family member, torn between conflicting stories and loves. Sometimes she veers into campy territory, but for the most part she makes us believe and care.