I suppose 'Georgia' makes a more mellifluous title than 'Sadie,' because that's the Flood sister that gets the lion's share of attention in this movie. Sister Georgia has built herself a career as a successful country music singer and has a stable marriage and family life. Sadie sings too, sort of; she's not that good and performs with semi-pro bands in mostly empty nightclubs. The two women have a complex and fragile relationship. Sadie seems to love her sister and admire her talent, but just below the surface lurk envy and resentment. Georgia for her part is always polite but somewhat on edge when Sadie is around, as if she's afraid her sister might lose control of herself and do something stupid or embarrassing. That fear is not unfounded, for Sadie is, as one critic described her, an emotional black hole, the kind of person who sucks in all the concern and attention in a family. She's also a substance abuser who is always walking on the edge of personal destruction.
The movie was written by Barbara Turner, mother of Jennifer Jason Leigh who plays Sadie, and directed by Ulu Grosbard. They tend to underplay rather than overplay Sadie's drug use and erratic behavior. She often threatens to do something out-of-control or embarrassing but most often stops just a bit short. Only once in the film is she shown really suffering the ill effects of being a junkie, but it's a harrowing scene. Also, Sadie and Georgia are often right on the verge of an emotional bust-up scene, but they only really have it out one time as well. This keeps the film from degenerating into caricature but it may stop it from being a great film rather than just a good one.
Director Grosbard took one very large chance on a scene where Sadie is Georgia's guest onstage at a benefit show. Sadie sings a Van Morrison song, "Take Me Back," stretching it out with her own improvised lyrics before an uncomfortably silent audience, forcing Georgia to come to both Sadie's and the crowd's rescue. To make this scene work, Grosbard had to let the song run on a long time, some eight minutes. This runs the risk of alienating some viewers and providing an easy target for critics, but you have to admire the daring it took to include it.
'Georgia' is a good, solid, if not spectacular film about sibling rivalry and family relations. Leigh is good in her role, as is Mare Winningham as the more subdued title character. Of the supporting cast I especially liked Max Perlich as a hero-worshiping fan that Sadie uses by turning him into her husband.