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Georgia (1995, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mare Winningham)

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Despite an Oscar nomination for Mare Winningham for best supporting actress and a slew of excellent reviews in America, Grosbard’s film was sadly neglected in Britain but its depiction of two sisters at the opposite ends of both the musical spectrum and their quality of life is stunning for the performance of the two leads alone.

MARE WINNINGHAM is Georgia, a successful singer of country type ballads who is also happily married with two kids – in short, middle America’s dream star. Sadie (JENNIFER JASON LEIGH) is the nightmare. We first see her leaving her job as a motel maid with a singer called Trucker (blues legend JIMMY WITHERSPOON) and then follow her descent into alcoholism and wrong relationships while she tries to emulate her sister on stage. But Sadie struggles – she’s not as talented as Georgia but the intensity of her performance evokes uncomfortable images of Janis Joplin – emotionally charged, a public show of her pain.

As the two meet up again, so Georgia finds herself sucked away from her career and life to feed her sister’s pain, failing to get her de-toxed and finding her own life so changed, it becomes apparent that the two are not so different after all.

TED LEVINE and MAX PERLICH as the men in their lives provide strong support but never take attention away from the two leads, who are trapped in a sibling alliance that no outside force can break. Leigh’s two previous major outings, Mrs Parker And The Vicious Circle and Dolores Claiborne proved her ability, she has also starred in Last Exit To Brooklyn and EXistenZ and she will be shortly seen in The King Is Alive, Kristian Levring’s take on King Lear while Winningham’s best known appearances include St Elmo’s Fire and Wyatt Earp.

The script was written by Leigh’s mother, a long time friend of Winningham and such close ties show, particularly when the two sisters finally get together onstage. Sadie starts a version of Van Morrison’s classic Take Me Back but is so out of control, Georgia has to join her to duet it (and her sister) back towards sanity, a scorching yet touching scene that sums up their relationship and the inevitable consequences that they know awaits.

production details
USA | 115 minutes | 1995

Director: Ulu Grosbard
Script: Barbara Turner

cast
Jennifer Jason Leigh as Sadie Flood
Mare Winningham as Georgia Flood
Ted Levine as Jake
Max Perlich as Axel Goldman
John Doe as Bobby
John C. Reilly as Herman
Jimmy Witherspoon as Trucker
Jason Carter as Chasman

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