As far as Lindsay Lohan goes these days, the title of a recent New York Times essay on her vida loca offers a succinct, if not entirely flattering, summation: "Lindsay Lohan: Portrait of the Party Girl as a Young Artist." The freckled former Disneyite has lately been on the verge — though whether it’s the verge of a grown-up career breakout or a total Britney Spears–style image meltdown seems unclear.
Just My Luck, LiLo’s latest, doesn’t bode well for her aspirations to being a movie star in the Scarlett Johansson mode. Donald Petrie, director of Miss Congeniality and How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, manages to meet both flicks halfway with Luck, which features a lead character as klutzy as Sandra Bullock’s FBI agent but as Big Apple fabulous as Kate Hudson’s scheming magazine writer. Lohan’s Ashley Albright is the luckiest girl in NYC, which is to say luckiest measured by Sex and the City standards: Cabs screech to the curb the instant they are hailed, elevators are stocked with cute single guys, and Sarah Jessica Parker’s totally chic cocktail dress is accidentally returned with the dry cleaning. Isn’t life frikkin’ delicious?
Naturally, Ashley’s luck — and her outlook on her superficial-yet-cutely-shod lifestyle — totally changes after she spontaneously kisses, yes, the unluckiest guy in NYC, a sweet schlub named Jake (Chris Pine) with rock ’n’ roll dreams. As you can see, the plot is as thin as one of Lohan’s upper arms; 13 Going on 30 is high art by comparison. By the end (and this is not a spoiler, because there’s no way you wouldn’t see it coming unless you recently arrived from a distant galaxy), the finally fortunate-again Ashley’s moment of truth hinges on whether or not she’ll pass the kiss of luck back to Jake, who needs it more than her, because he’s, like, nice to little kids and stuff.
Fortunately, there’s a movie like Somersault around to dig a little deeper into the confusion that arises when innocence takes a dive. Shot two years ago in Australia but just now being released here, Somersault raked in 13 Australian Film Institute awards (if the AFIs are down under’s Oscar equivalent, that would make Somersault more golden than Titanic). Pretty impressive for a film that seems so effortless; 24-year-old star Abbie Cornish (totally convincing as a 16-year-old, and just cast in Boys Don’t Cry director Kimberly Peirce’s next project) is four years older than Lohan, but her character, Heidi, exudes a far more fresh-scrubbed naïveté.
As angelically fair and danger-prone as Goldilocks, Heidi flees her home in Canberra after she’s discovered making an advance (eagerly reciprocated) on her mother’s mullet-bearing boyfriend. Attracting men isn’t Heidi’s problem; even in a crowded, raucous bar, she practically glows, a quality which no doubt aids her in her fumbling quest to put down new roots. A kindly hotel owner allows her a cheap room, a job as a cashier gets her free meals, and a popular local boy named Joe (Sam Worthington) takes an interest in her.
Rest assured, this ain’t Where the Heart Is. (Recap: Preggers teen Natalie Portman blows into a tiny Oklahoma town and is wholly embraced with homespun heartlandiness.) Heidi is childlike enough to playact in anticipation of her next meeting with Joe, but she’s also sexually precocious to a fault; her judgment is impaired not just by her drinking habits but also by her young age and her desperate need to be loved by anyone who’ll have her. Unfortunately for her, she’s not living in a universe that pinpoints her well-being as its focus (unlike, say, Just My Luck‘s Ashley). Somersault‘s portrayal of real life is harsh, especially for a too-immature-to-be-so-mature girl scraping by completely on her own. Writer-director Cate Shortland deftly conveys the precariousness of Heidi’s situation with restrained symbolism, as when the girl plucks a pair of discarded ski goggles from a junk heap and tries them on — allowing her to glimpse an unyielding world, if only for an instant, through rose-colored glasses. SFBG
Just My Luck
Now playing at Bay Area theaters
For showtimes go to www.sfbg.com
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For showtimes go to www.sfbg.com