It's a downer, but it doesn't get much better than this


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

"Georgia" is a wrenching movie. If the acting, direction, writing, cinematography, or music had been excessive, it would have been merely depressing, but all the elements of this movie support the leading players, and the result is very fine.

Jennifer Jason Leigh plays aspiring singer Sadie, the alcoholic, drug-addicted younger sister of Georgia (Mare Winningham), a successful country rock star. Ironically, Georgia's success is somewhat mechanical, while Sadie's failure is shot through with passion. Leigh and Winningham deliver their pain as a searing chunk of real life.

Georgia packs them in on the club circuit but ignores the trappings of success to head straight home to her husband Jake (Ted Levine) and her children. When Sadie returns to them after drinking her way through singing dates in sleazy bars. Georgia welcomes her guardedly. She's seen this before and knows that nothing she offers will help Sadie as long as she is drinking.

Here, Sadie, take this dress, take this money, take my time, take my love, use me--to a point. "What do you want me to do, Sadie? What do you want me to do?" Sadie wants all Georgia's gifts, but she wants them on her own terms. It is the timeworn lament of the friends and relatives of addicts.

Sadie is incapable of understanding the effort Georgia expends in keeping her own life going. There are plenty of shadows in the corners of her perfect picture. Damned if she does, damned if she doesn't, Georgia stays away from Sadie's singing dates to avoid upstaging her.

When Georgia does go, she steps quietly behind the singing drunk she loves and tries to rescue her from public humiliation by humming to her own soft guitar. It's a moment of great generosity, and Mare Winningham does it beautifully. She builds a quiet, affecting picture of the woman whose love can't help her sister.

As Sadie, Jennifer Jason Leigh creates a disintegrating being so vulnerable, so utterly without the tools to save herself, that just watching her is almost unbearable. The nice kid is right there inside, caught in the vice of addiction, thinking always that with just that little boost, she can make it. She inflicts the exaggerated moods and gestures of a drinker on everyone around her. A stumble here, a missed gesture there, her conversation is the stuff of melodrama. Georgia says it: "She swallows people up."

Leigh brings great originality to the challenge of making us care about this shaky, fragile creature instead of just wishing her away. We realize at the end just how successful she has been. It is a memorable performance.

This is about two lives, one broken, one held together with great effort. Two inspired actresses have taken on these roles, adding, with every minute of the film, a subtle new dimension to their characters, until they stand there, fully drawn in their hopelessness. It's a downer, but it doesn't get much better than this.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 497
Studio : Ciby 2000
Rating :
Running Time: 1h57m

Copyright (c) Illusion

Return to Ellis Home Page