Here we have another movie in which Hollywood filmmakers celebrate the virtue of characters who reject the duplicity and perversity of California in favor of a quiet life in the sticks. In this case “the sticks” is Idaho, where Georgia (Jane Fonda) has agreed to take care of her problem granddaughter, Rachel (Lindsay Lohan), for a few months while mom Lilly (Felicity Huffman) frolics with stepdad Arnold (Cary Elwes) back in San Francisco. The film’s first section is breezily entertaining, showing the hard-nosed Georgia’s efforts to tame Rachel, who dresses Rodeo Drive for a walk down Main Street before putting the moves on the Mormon locals.
As the subject matter becomes darker, director Garry Marshall keeps directing a comedy, with unbalanced, emotionally disconnected results. It all leads toward twin mother-daughter reconciliations, but as the storyline gets more involved, the situations become more contrived. Did screenwriter Mark Andrus really have to lean on that clichéd (and borderline sexist) stereotype of blaming a woman’s promiscuous behavior on sexual abuse? And couldn’t he have written a single slice-of-life scene that depicted the straight-edge religious population as something more than local yokels? The results feel phony, but Lohan is great fun to watch. C+