Warning: If you’re the sort of movie-goer who doesn’t like knowing key information in advance, then stop reading NOW. (On the WELL, the online community to which I belong, we call this a “Spoiler Alert.”)
When Georgia sets eyes on her daughter Lily for the first time in 13 years, the body language of actors Jane Fonda and Felicity Huffman, respectively, is so nuanced that a lifetime of information about their relationship is conveyed. Exactly how one chooses to see that relationship may depend, at least in part, on the viewer’s stage of life; I saw a mother aching to hug a daughter who, though somewhere inside herself desparately wanting it, makes damn sure not to give her mother the satisfaction.
By the time of this scene, we’re already frustrated and exhausted by the interactions between Lily and her daughter, Rachel, played by Lindsay Lohan. As Rachel proceeds to manipulate everyone around her, our frustration and exhaustion increase: the audience is relentlessly jerked around by this movie. Every time we’re on the verge of throwing up our hands in disgust, though, something happens to reel us in again.
I went to see Georgia Rule on Mothers Day, expecting a movie that explored mother-daughter relationships. I did not expect those relationships to revolve around the well-worn, even hackneyed, issue of child sexual abuse; if I’d known this, I might not have gone at all. When the issue first surfaced in the film I felt a wave of exasperation: Don’t screenwriters and directors think there’s enough complexity in relationships between three generations of women to sustain a two-hour plot without dragging in the Evil Stepfather? I’m tired of that storyline. But once I resigned myself to it, I became caught up in the question that sustains and moves the plot forward: Did he or didn’t he? (Don’t worry, that I’m not going to reveal.)
Georgia Rule is as flawed as most critics say it is, but for anyone interested in mother-daughter relationships, it’s worth seeing. Huffman and Fonda don’t get as much room as they deserve to show their best, but they’re pretty awesome anyway, and Lohan has potential—even if, as has been said, she’s only expanding on the role she plays in life. But if you want to feel like your relationship with your mother and/or daughter isn’t quite as dysfunctional as you suspect, Georgia Rule comes through: these women are so stranded from one another it’s a miracle they come together for five seconds, much less the five or so minutes that they manage in the end. When they’re finally able to hug one another, it’s a hard-won accomplishment. As a plot device, the Evil Stepfather might be indispensable after all.
Coda on Mothers Day: One account going around the Internet says Mothers Day was inaugurated as a kind of war protest, a day set aside for peace in honor of women who’d lost their sons to the Civil War. Another account, in the Sunday
New York Times, is even more colorful, and proves I’m not the only one who’s ambivalent: A woman named Anna Marie Jarvis. motivated by love of her own mommy, lobbied for a Congressional declaration of the holiday. She was utterly appalled, however, when Mothers Day turned into a commercial orgy (Moms and Jesus unite?). Jarvis even tried to get the day wiped off the books, and ended up in the nuthouse, with her expenses paid for by florists. Pretty bizarre. ( I’d link you to the article, but the damn NYT has a godawful search engine, and I can’t find the thing. Sorry.)
Yesterday I promised a rant on Georgia Rule–but as it turns out, occasionally I don’t go ballistic. I could conceivably work up a healthy tirade about Evil Stepfather hijacking the movie…but I’m not sure it would have been any better without him.