Georgia is a 1995 American independent film starring Jennifer Jason Leigh and Mare Winningham. In the film, Leigh played Sadie Flood, a punky barroom singer who has a complicated, jealous but loving relationship with her older sister, Georgia, played by Winningham. Georgia is a successful, talented and well-adjusted folk music singer and a happily married mother of two. Sadie is passionate but self-destructive and untalented. While she seeks fame, she destroys herself through drug abuse. Although the movie focuses largely on Sadie, it was apparently titled Georgia because Sadie defines her own identity so much through her older sister.
John Doe of the punk band X played a supporting role and performed as a member of Sadie's band. The music in the film consisted of 13 songs which were recorded live and performed by the actors ("a risk that has paid off spectacularly in terms of emotional intensity", according to Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan). These included covers of songs by Lou Reed, Elvis Costello and, most famously, Van Morrison: in the talked-about centrepiece of the film, Sadie drunkenly performs a raw, gruelling 8½-minute version of Morrison's "Take Me Back" in a ragged Janis Joplin-style gut howl at an AIDS benefit concert.
The film was a very personal project for Jennifer Jason Leigh: it was written by her mother, Barbara Turner, Leigh and Turner co-produced it themselves, and she chose as her co-star her longtime real-life friend Mare Winningham, whom she had known since the age of 13. It was directed by Ulu Grosbard, a friend of her mother's.
Georgia was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival.
Georgia was released in the U.S. on December 8, 1995. It received a positive critical reception. Susan Wloszczyna of USA Today described the film as "a painful though sadly humorous portrait of sisterhood," and Roger Ebert said Georgia was "a complex, deeply knowledgeable story about a truly lost soul and her downward spiral" in his 3.5/4-star review. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone said “Georgia is Leigh’s high-wire act, and her fierce, funny, exasperating and deeply affecting portrayal commands attention.” James Berardinelli of ReelViews praised it as “a tour de force for Leigh... there are times when it's uncomfortable to watch this performance because it's so powerful”, adding “Georgia doesn't possess an amazingly original narrative, but what distinguishes this picture is the depth of the characters and the amazing power with which the two leads breathe life into them.” Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times said “Leigh’s exceptional performance tears you apart… we’ve never seen anything like it before”, adding that "Georgia is not an easy film, but in the American independent arena, it outperforms everything in sight.” It was also voted one of 1995’s ten best films by Interview, New York Post, Detroit Free Press, Los Angeles Daily News and ABC Radio Network.
Jennifer Jason Leigh was voted the year’s Best Actress by the New York Film Critics Circle and at the Montreal World Film Festival, nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, and was widely predicted to receive her first Academy Award nomination for the role. Surprisingly though, it was Mare Winningham who actually went on to receive an Oscar nomination (as well as an Independent Spirit Award and Screen Actors Guild nomination) as Best Supporting Actress, while Leigh was overlooked by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Speaking to MetroActive magazine, Winningham said: “I felt incredibly honored and touched to be nominated… But it was hard to be separated from Jennifer, because she was the heart and soul of that film. While we were making the movie, I thought not only that she would get a nomination, but that she would win. I saw the kind of work she was doing. In my mind she will always be the greatest performance of that year, and a lot of other people thought so, too. Meryl Streep grabbed me at the Academy Awards. She said, 'Jennifer should be here!' and I said, 'I know!'” When Leaving Las Vegas star Elisabeth Shue won her Independent Spirit Award as Best Actress, she personally dedicated it to Leigh’s performance in Georgia.
For all its critical acclaim, Georgia was not as successful commercially, grossing only $2.9 million in the U.S.Jennifer Jason Leigh - Sadie Flood
Mare Winningham - Georgia Flood
Ted Levine - Jake
Max Perlich - Axel Goldman
John Doe - Bobby
John C. Reilly - Herman
Jimmy Witherspoon - Trucker
Jason Carter - Chasman
Tom Bower - Erwin Flood
Smokey Hormel - Leland
Jimmy Z - Clay
Jo Miller - Jo Miller
Tony Marsico - Paul
Jamian Briar - Andrew Flood
Rachel Rasco - Mish Flood
Nicole Donahoo - Young Sadie Flood
Academy Awards: Mare Winningham, Best Actress in a Supporting Role (nomination)
New York Film Critics Circle: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Best Actress (won)
Montreal World Film Festival: Grand Prix of the Americas for Best Picture (won)
Montreal World Film Festival: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Best Actress (won)
Screen Actors Guild: Mare Winningham, Best Supporting Actress (nomination)
Independent Spirit Awards: Ulu Grosbard, Best Director (nomination)
Independent Spirit Awards: Mare Winningham, Best Supporting Female (won)
Independent Spirit Awards: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Best Female Lead (nomination)
Independent Spirit Awards: Max Perlich, Best Supporting Male (nomination)