The spectacular rise and violent fall of Judy Garland is not an isolated incident in Hollywood history. Here is the story of one modern counterpart: Lindsay Lohan.
1997: The Parent Trap (Screen test)
It takes 40 seconds for it to become apparent that, even at 10 years old, the girl is special. In her screen test, she is playing one twin – Anne, who is English – and almost- convincingly playing another – Hallie, who was raised in California – and around that 40 second mark, she lets the work show, describing her sister as a “lovely girl” in such a way that the phrase sounds immediately, subtly misshapen in her mouth (“A lah-vley girl,” she trills. A Valley Girl would never). She stares at her father, who can never know that they are meeting for the first time, like she’s dazed, dopey with new love. It is 1997, and at this point Lindsay Lohan is still red haired, and a lah-vley girl herself A decade later, when she enters rehab for the first time, her redbeaded-ness will be cited as evidence that she is fiery, or sexual, rather than cheeky, and her preternatural- seeming brilliance will be rewritten as her having grown up too fast. Still, for now, she is a young girl with the soul of an adult, lacquering bad accents onto good ones with the care of a veteran actor, and laughing her perfect, tinkling laugh. “Miss Lohan, a Ford model at three and then a very busy 10-year-old on Another World.., ‘Janet Maslin writes, reviewing the completed film for The New York Times, “plays the dual role with apparent effortlessness and with so much forcefulness that she seems to have been taking shy violet lessons from Sharon Stone.”
2004: Mean Girls
A photograph of Lindsay taken by Mark Seliger in 2004 announces her arrival into adulthood, and ushers in the era of Lindsay the Sex Bomb. Sitting an a bed in Malibu in a Pucci bikini, staring down the camera, her pierced navel is upstaged by the much-older-looking surfer in the background. (Lohan heads will be the first to note that here, pre-surgery, her face looks uncannily like her mother Dinah’s.) When Mean Girls is released the same year, magazine profiles and audiences alike outfit her with a public image more or less equivalent to one of those novelty t-shirts that says: ‘All This And Brains, Too.’ In the movie, she is somehow simultaneously an every girl and the modem equivalent of an eccentric screwball heroine She excels at physical comedy; reacting to the line “make sure you check out her mom’s boob job’ in the space of roughly one second of screen time, she conveys a private symphony of bafflement in a brief double-take. “Charisma,* Richard Brody later says in the New Yorker, musing on the enduring success of Mean Girls in 2014, “[is] the part of acting that cant be learned and can’t be trained, and Lohan-perhaps more than any actor of her generation – has it.’ By the end of the year she is regularly pictured in nightclubs, and is rumoured to be sleeping with the nearly-30-year-old Colin Farrell “I prefer 24-year-old guys [to teenage boys],” she tells the Guardian, flashing “her million-dollar smile,” “and that’s not legal.’
“Lindsay claims to want to win an Oscar by the age of 30. Ultimately, things do not pan out that way.”
2007: A Prairie Home Companion
Coronation by the genius Robert Altman more or less secures the starlet’s reputation as a genius in her own right. “It’s the press that makes news of all that other stuff,” Altman tells (T magazine in 2007. “But I think she’s great and I’d work with her again. She’s a great talent with a really sexy voice.” “All that other stuff” refers to her extracurricular activities, including but not limited to drinking, anorexia, an ill-advised friendship with Paris Hilton, and a weakness for the kind of bad boys technically old enough to be called “bad men.”
In the movie, she is a blonde country singer who performs a song about shooting a “bastard” in the chest, by the perfectly- sulty name of Lola Johnson. It’s a pity she does not play the character listed in the credits as “Dangerous Woman,” who turns out to be the angel of death, given how capably she has begun to play one in her personal life. Still, if being praised by Altman is not enough to convince the viewing public of her serious potential, Meryl Streep’s endorsement has to give them pause. “I think she is a terrific actress,” Streep tells W in the same profile. “It’s something that you could see even when she was little-bitty.” Altman, who dies not long after the release of A Prairie Home Companion, obviously never gets to work with Lohan again; he never sees her go to rehab, either.
2007: Georgia Rule
“I just want to take her in my arms,” Jane Fonda says of the experience of working with a 19-year-old Lohan on the awful, tone-deaf Gary Marshall project Georgia Rule, “and hold her until she becomes grown-up.” The movie’s premise – a family comedy about a teen girl acting out after first being abused by her step-father – takes on added significance given the young actor’s reputation, as well as her very public conflicts with her ex-con father, Michael Lohan. Her character, Rachel, is all id, all death-drive, and there is almost nobody that she won’t try to sleep with. She is alarmingly sensual, and completely furious. Here is where the “thing” of Lindsay Lohan really begins to unravel, the absenteeism and claims of “exhaustion” fully taking root. “We are well aware that your ongoing all- night heavy partying is the real reason for your so called ’exhaustion’,” the production CEO writes, in a letter to the star that ends up leaked to and published by The Smoking Gun.
“Every bad review of Georgia Rule becomes a bad review of Lindsay’s private life”
Moral panic also means that every bad review of Georgia Rule becomes a bad review of Lindsay’s private life. “[Her character] is constantly getting into trouble and in need of rescue,” The Augusta Chronicle frets. “She’s too skinny. She rarely eats. There have been some substance abuse problems in the past, even though she’s barely out of high school. And yet, despite the chaos that constantly surrounds her and her family, she always manages to look stunningly hip. She even wears fake eyelashes at the breakfast table. [She] looks, sounds and acts like – well, like Lindsay Lohan”.
I Know Who Killed Me
There are two Lindsays on screen in Chris Silverton’s Lynch- lite psychosexual thriller, and yet somehow it does not feel as if there is one whole girl. A change has taken place since Lohan’s last turn playing twins, the mood one of a single fractured psyche rather than of two discrete, well-acted characters. That one twin is a Disney-cute valedictorian and the other is a foul- mouthed stripper only adds to the impression that the actor, who completes her inaugural stint in rehab during filming, is more interested in acting out than acting: she is better as the stripper who, like her Georgia Rule character, is angry, hurt and traumatised.
“Lynch- lite psychosexual thriller”
The movie edges close to torture pom, with long scenes of limbs being severed, fingers sawn off and then sewn back on. Speaking of off-and-on, and of taking a perverse pleasure in the pain of others: between January 2007 and November of the same year, Lohan completes a 30-day stay at an LA rehab centre, is arrested for drink driving and sent back to rehab for another 45-day stay; is arrested a second time, for driving drunk and for cocaine possession; goes to rehab, this time in Utah, for a third time; and finally, serves 10 days’ community service at a morgue. Talk shows cannot get enough. Nor can the gossip rags. I Know Who Killed Me somehow makes a little over $7 million dollars, and retains a Metacritic rating of 16/100.
2012: Liz & Dick
Nobody ever really expects to make a Hollywood comeback with a Lifetime movie. Still, by 2012, when Lohan appears playing her heroine Elizabeth Taylor in the made-for-TV Liz & Dick, she has done nothing more high-profile since the release of I Know Who Killed Me than violating probation, driving drunk, ending up jailed for two weeks, going to rehab, failing a court-mandated drug test, going to rehab again, violating probation again, stealing a $2,500 necklace and doing community service at a Women’s Centre. (Proving she never stopped being funny, even if she has become a pain in law enforcement’s ass, in May 2010 she tweets: “Can CHANEL please help me out by getting me some stickers to put on my scram bracelet so that I can at least wear a chic dress?! Maybe!?”)
“It hardly matters whether or not she is good in Liz & Dick”
It hardly matters whether or not she is good in Liz & Dick, so fated is it to become either a classic of camp cinema, or a popular drinking game. She has long discussed her identification with and admiration for Elizabeth Taylor in interviews, perhaps because her career arc is one that Lohan ought to have lived out herself: a child-star grown into a hyper-sensual woman who is also, as well as being a firecracker, a tremendous Oscar-winning actress. Lindsay claims to want to win an Oscar by the age of 30. Ultimately, things do not pan out that way.
2013: The Canyons
In Paul Schrader and Bret Easton Ellis’ low-budget LA noir, The Canyons, Lindsay is imperfect and mesmerising. Playing Tara, an ex-actress bored to anhedonic near-death by the movie industry, she wears her damage on her Herve Leger sleeve; if her line readings are not always stellar, there is also a consistent air of danger in her manner, a suggestion of imminent threat. She is unparalleled at crying, and at screaming, and at fighting.
The production of The Canyons leads to a piece of investigative journalism in The New York Times outlines the experience of having her on set. Entitled, ‘Here Is What Happens When You Put Lindsay Lohan In Your Movie,’ the article touches on the idea that Lohan has been meeting up with moneyed men and being given gifts for unspecified reasons, and on her own casual revelation that she feels extremely qualified to play a beaten-up girl because of, “experiences with [her] dad.” It does not bother to delve too deeply into either disclosure. Needless to say, both suggestions make it somewhat understandable that Lohan has been difficult, and that she struggles to remain entirely focused on her work. When, five years later, Schrader makes an unqualified masterpiece in First Reformed, it is hard not to wonder what might have occurred if rather than Amanda Seyfriend – Lohan’s Mean Girls co-star – the lead female role had gone to Lindsay. Maybe she would not have been able to play a holy-seeming mother, and the love interest to a conflicted pastor. Maybe, though, she would have made temptation seem all the more inevitable, and rendered the ecstatic ending even more provocative in its eroticism.
“[Lindsay is] charming and also really fn’ annoying,” the critic Kim Morgan writes for New York Magazine
2014: Lindsay on OWN
“[Lindsay is] charming and also really fn’ annoying,” the critic Kim Morgan writes for New York Magazine, reviewing Lohan’s Oprah-helmed reality show. “She’s a delightful little pain in the ass.” It is one of the best descriptions of her singular appeal ever committed to print; it also explains why she has been afforded comeback after comeback.
The entire premise of the show is tough-love from a mentor (Oprah) to a wayward daughter-figure (Lindsay). All around her, handlers and assistants and fairweather friends enable her. frustrated by her attempts at self-sabotage and driven to protect her by the moments in which she seems like a lost and frightened little girl. The same year, she writes a “sex list” on the back of a napkin at the Chateau Marmont, detailing the famous men she’s slept with, and then leaves it behind to be found and published; whether or not she had meant to start a conversation about her colourful, admirable sex life, the appearance of names like “Joaquin Phoenix” and “Heath Ledger” sends the tabloids into overdrive. Certainly, it distracts from the fact that she has not made a new movie since The Canyons, and that she has not made a particularly well-reviewed one since A Prairie Home Companion. Whatever people call Lindsay, she isn’t exactly stupid or naive.
2019: Among the Shadows
Among the Shadows is a low-budget film about werewolves, vampires and detectives, released quietly on “streaming platforms” and left un-reviewed outside of horror blogs. In it, Lohan plays a post-Brexit vampire, and the unconvincing redheaded wife of “The President of Europe.” As a dutiful public official, she fails to convince. Dressing too-sexily to visit the grave of a man she killed while making love to him, however, she finally – sincerely – feels like the old Lindsay again. Her volatile crackle, albeit faded, still endures. (Lest we forget: Lohan herself is not a stickler for an appropriate dress- code, having worn a skin-tight cocktail mini to a courtroom hearing, and a white dress to another woman’s wedding.) It is at the time of writing her most recent feature film project, and a horribly ignoble end to what was a dazzlingly promising career if she is not hired again. It is also her first real film since The Canyons, a depressing downgrade even in light of that film’s bad reviews.
In 2019, too, she makes her second attempt at a hit reality show with Lohan Beach House, which follows her latest business venture – a holiday resort opened, heartbreakingly, on the beach where she was photographed being attacked by her former fiancé in 2016 – as well as her endeavour to populate it with hot, dumb and over-emotional hosts and hostesses. It flops, and Lohan Beach House closes. This is no surprise, since what we really want to see her do is act: to see her be hoarse and hard-edged and justifiably mad at an industry that’s as remorselessly bloodsucking as, say, the wife of the President of Europe. When she plays nice for a reality show, it does not feel real enough to thrill after the madness of her 20-year career. Instead, it rings as false as Anne’s meticulously-faltering California accent. On 5 August 2019, Page Six runs a story with the headline: ‘What’s going on between Lindsay Lohan and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia?’