Retour

GEORGIA RULE

From the May 18, 2007, Deseret News

Having been warned by a number of reviews that the new film "Georgia Rule" treats Mormons less than kindly, I went into the theater prepared.

Somewhat.

Lindsay Lohan stars as a troubled teen forced to stay with her strict grandmother (Jane Fonda) in a repressive Idaho town, which is largely populated by Mormons.

There, Lohan seduces a young man who is about to go on his mission and they are taunted by the locals, portrayed as less-than-Christian nincompoops.

To be fair, it should be noted that "Georgia Rule" doesn't abound with sympathetic characters.

Fonda comes off as tolerant of the Mormons but rather hypocritical in her own thinking — she won't stand for the Lord's name to be taken in vain, and even forces two characters to put soap in their mouths, but she also thinks nothing of dropping the F-bomb.

Her daughter, Lohan's mother (Felicity Huffman), is an alcoholic with her own self-esteem issues. And in one notable scene, she's nearly nude in Fonda's front yard in front of young children.

And the film shifts from broad comedy to soap opera, trivializing the tragedy of child sexual abuse when it's revealed that Lohan's stepfather may be a predator.

So I guess the Mormons could be worse. As it is, they are simply caricatures designed for easy jokes and general disdain.

After performing a sex act with the soon-to-be missionary, Lohan says she had kind of hoped he'd be the first guy to say no to her.

Me too. That certainly would have changed the texture of the Mormon characters. Instead, the lad is racked with guilt until he apologizes to his girlfriend at BYU-Idaho. Then he's ready to go on that mission. Which, um, I'm pretty sure isn't how it works.

We haven't had Mormon characters this offensive since ... well, since last year's sleazy farce "You, Me and Dupree."

That film had a subplot about Owen Wilson's character dating a Mormon librarian, with a particularly stupid punchline. But at least she was never actually seen.

And we'll have the Malloy Brothers in the upcoming "Ocean's Thirteen," LDS characters who were also in the earlier "Ocean's" movies, and who received fairly benign treatment ... except, of course, that they're crooks. But in the "Ocean's" world, so is everybody else.

The LDS Church and its members are often the butt of jokes in stand-up routines, late-night monologues, TV shows and movies. It's quick and easy shorthand for making fun of religion in general and Mormons in particular.

In fact, it's so common that it hardly stands out anymore.

But Mormon characters in movies are still pretty rare — aside from all the LDS films that crop up in this market each year.

Another bad one is in the 10-year-old movie "Donnie Brasco," which is currently getting a push on DVD with a new special edition.

The film stars Johnny Depp as an undercover FBI agent who becomes pals with a lower-tier mobster, played by Al Pacino.

The LDS character shows up as Depp's FBI boss, a weaselly hypocrite who chides Depp for using foul language and then refers to Depp using the same word.

In contrast, Brasco's wife in the film is a faithful Catholic, and her young daughter's Holy Communion is treated as sacred.

While perusing reviews of "Georgia Rule" last week, I came across this comment by Washington Post film critic Stephen Hunter:

"The movie has an ugly strain of anti-Mormonism throughout it, which I hope doesn't become a Hollywood tradition if Mitt Romney gets the Republican presidential nomination."

The sentiment is appreciated, but I believe that ship has sailed.