It feels good to cheer on Lindsay Lohan these days. Some people never quit, of course. For everyone else, the wake-up call came earlier this year, at the Superbowl, when Lohan starred in a snap Planet Fitness commercial to which the seemingly universal answer, spoken on the Internet, was, She looks good! That was the punchline: our surprise. “What’s happening to Lindsay?” asks a room full of gym-goers at the top of the ad, as a sweaty but shiny Lohan works hard on an elliptical like a road runner stuck in place. She “traded in DUIs for DIY,” we’re told. She has hobby now, which means she has time for her hobbies, now: she has the luxury of free time. She has healthy habits. We see her win Danger! with a question about Dennis Rodman, another complicated celebrity treated like a circus freak by the media of his heyday. A crying paparazzo posted outside a nightclub shouts that he misses Lindsay. She doesn’t give him much material these days; he cannot profit from the disaster. Gone are the memorable shipwrecks in court or the juicy stories from Hollywood sets detailing the misfortunes that once kept her from underwriting film insurance policies. Those days are apparently far enough in the past that we can laugh about now. Lohan is in on the joke, which is part of why it works. This works especially since the once unstoppable star looks genuinely restored. Even the glowing aura that follows her at the end of the ad, a bit of special effects trim meant to inspire a knowing laugh, can’t distract from the sincerity – and, for anyone who remembers of the darkest years, of improbability – of the real to light up.
Lohan’s new Netflix holiday movie, Fall for Christmas, is not as rich as this advertisement. It’s not destined to become a towering work in its canon – whatever. When the film tips its hat to mean girls, passing by “Jingle Bell Rock”, he seems to recognize it; how could he not? This wholesome dollop of Christmas camp, which is a bit crazy even by Netflix holiday movie standards, is eager to give Lohan something to do. That’s the point, and that’s what the movie nicely accomplishes. Fall for Christmas is a holiday romance, a silly mix of fish-out-of-water comedy and amnesia. (Not for nothing, the film also serves as a crude subtextual warning to women who clearly lack gaydar.) The title, per genre, is a nice pun. A hotel heiress on wheels gets offered on a snowy peak by her rich, primitive boyfriend; falls off the cliff, which she probably deserves; loses his memory; and finds himself in the house (if not the bed) of a rosy-cheeked cherub-man, who happens to be a widower, and furthermore has a young daughter who desperately needs a mother figure and is about to win a very, very rich.
That’s why we love movies. Lohan plays the heiress, obviously, in a role that looks a bit like mean girls‘ Cady Heron backwards: from mean girl to nice girl, rather than the other way around. Her new beau (played by Chord Overstreet) is also in the hospitality business, but on much more humble terms than the heiress’ family, making it a story about a rich girl’s redemption, in more of all that. We push her off the cliff so she can forget she’s rich, learn to do laundry, and fall in love when she finally deserves it. Only then can she get her identity (and her money) back, and until then, we want her to have it more than she even wants for herself, because she has proved she deserved it.
It’s a role that suits Lohan because the most hateful version of this on-screen star is never truly hateful – that’s the joke, the quality by which Lohan has so often become the glue that held the artifices of a genre together. No one expected Cady Heron to remain a mean girl or completely jump the shark at the end of this film – she seems too good, too really good, for that. You know better ’cause you know comedies like mean girls are not designed to deprive us of an end in which we can feel good. But really, you know that because Lohan’s most distinguished quality as a star is that glowing goodness, a real, unwavering joy that can only be barely imitated, let alone replicated, and feels perfectly at home. comfortable in the bright, dynamic and ironic realm. carefree comedy. It was there in The parent trap: I think of the moment the Lindsay twins, separated by birth and upbringing, first meet, and the whole movie seemingly slows down to linger on Lohan’s contagious pleasure in herself. just my luck saw her star alongside Chris Pine in a plot that shares Fall for Christmas‘rom-com flair for ridicule, with its twist of fate torturing a happily lucky New York publicist whose good fortune goes like Enron stock. Again, pure Lohan: a character whose effortless luck makes you grudgingly in awe, rather than annoyed, who inspires jealousy rather than rejection, whose happy outcomes you seek from the get-go. She’s the nice girl who earns enough to please the most boring guys in the movies, but couldn’t be less likely to become boring herself.
Perhaps that’s what made his public spirals so shocking over the years: they couldn’t feel out of place anymore. The painful inner life of many stars is perfectly apparent in their performances, if subtle, even if everything the actor does is a cunning and spectacular distraction from all the darkness we’re not meant to see. Lohan was not. The public struggles, starting with the leak of a letter about his behavior on the set of Georgia Ruler (2007), in which she was considered a “spoiled child” and accused of costing the film “hundreds of thousands of dollars”, initially felt incompatible with her image. Then they became his image. The movies always tried to give him a way out. 2012 Liz and Dick (a Lifetime biopic of Elizabeth Taylor) and 2013 The canyons (a notorious direct-to-video thriller that director Paul Schrader used Kickstarter to fund) both arrived when his career was on the right track and were marred by the usual stories about his behavior (The canyons in a spectacular way, thanks to a surrealism New York Times report on the making of the film and a leaked audio of her berating a co-star). And yet when I saw The canyons Recently I’ve been surprised by how out of place Lohan seems in the midst of it all, how extremely vulnerable she is under the wreckage of the film’s unflattering surfaces, which is more relevant to the film than he doesn’t seem to have gotten the credit for it. There’s something about seeing a celebratory post-nadir Lohan getting her soul sucked out by a predatory Los Angeles, a willing participant in her own destruction who’s also helpless to that destruction, who feels uncomfortable. Even in the role of a not-so-good girl, she serves up something harder to put your finger on, something awkwardly tragic and disappointingly human, a sense of failure that can only be won by falling from higher heights.
It goes back to what we love about Lindsay Lohan as a star, which is Fall for Christmas, a Netflix comeback story, is struggling to figure it out, to its credit. Here, as in the Planet Fitness and, as throughout his career, Lohan shines. It’s an adequate first step – more valuable for what it means (Lindsay again in the public eye, going late at night and promoting her podcast, being a known quantity again, for the right reasons) than for what it is. The film is part of a multi-picture deal with Netflix; the sequel is expected to be released next year. Making this, hopefully, the start of a new phase. It would be good. Lohan deserves the second chance.
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