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The girls of summer

The Girls of Summer | MOVIES

Lindsay Lohan is the very model of the modern major ingenue. But competition is growing -- and so is she.

April 18, 2004|Margy Rochlin | Special to The Times

But is there such a thing as a role model for handling publicity? "It's a lot harder for people my age in this business," Lohan says, citing how US Weekly, In Touch Weekly and Star Magazine fill their pages with little text and lots of paparazzi snapshots capturing a celebrity doing something, anything, nothing. "I'm not at a point where I need to go out and get really drunk and do stupid things. That's just me. But it's hard being 17 years old and not be able to do the things that other 17-year-olds do, like going out, learning about yourself, finding out who you are."

Lohan certainly completed high school differently than any of her former classmates in Cold Spring Harbor, a wealthy Long Island suburb. "We really didn't [celebrate] yet," says her mother, Dina Lohan, adding that Lohan, who has been home-schooled since the middle of the 10th grade, compressed her last year of education into three months and finished 12th grade ahead of her friends.

Mention the prom at her Cold Spring Harbor high school and it's treated like a movie role. "There's been offers, but she hasn't made a decision yet," her mother says.

Lohan's parents -- Michael, an investment banker, and Dina, a former Radio City Music Hall Rockette -- always wanted their flame-haired, freckly, eldest daughter to experience at least a measure of the ordinary world. (Lohan has two brothers, Michael, 16, and Dakota, 7, and a sister, Aliana, 10, all of whom have worked as Ford models and done cameo bits in her films.) So, Lohan's seven-month stint on "The Parent Trap" was followed by a move back home and a three-year career hiatus.

"It was a gamble for me as a mom because I didn't want her to grow up hating me," says Dina. "If she stayed in Hollywood, she'd be a nightmare now. Kids need boundaries."

Though Lohan's limits are set by her mom and dad when she's home, much of her time is spent in Los Angeles where she rents an apartment she never stays in (she prefers a no-maintenance luxury hotel room or the slumber party coziness of a friend's couch). Here, her upbringing is "it-takes-a-village" Hollywood-style, meaning Lohan, who has never taken an acting class, is supervised by agents, publicists, an assistant-guardian (often only a year or two older than she is) and via calls from her quasi-manager mother.

But what's appealing about photographs of Lohan posing at red carpet affairs is that she seems so much less hardened than her same-age counterparts, a bit dazzled by the hoopla. In our belly-button-pierced, baby-stripper, Britney Spears world, Lohan is a throwback to another time -- safe, mainstream, chaste. Lohan may be struggling to balance being normal with embracing Hollywood, but what teenage girl isn't trying to crack the code of conflicting internal personalities? The actress' wide-open cuteness, energetic delivery and her natural comic timing have certainly boosted her star power, but when it comes to carving out an official niche, hers is playing two characters at once. "The Parent Trap" is literally a twin tale but metaphorically it's about the war inside a kid(s) going through divorce. In "Freaky Friday" she's the responsible adult inside the flighty teen. In "Mean Girls" she's straddling the worlds of the disenfranchised and the popular crowd, and confused about which she really wants.

When the time comes, though, will Lindsay Lohan be able to replace the indelibility of her current image with something that allows us to accept her as a grown woman? Ask Molly Ringwald how hard it is to escape a label. Twenty years ago, Ringwald hit it big as the pouty girl of choice for John Hughes in "Sixteen Candles," "The Breakfast Club" and "Pretty in Pink." She subsequently has had more than two dozen film and television roles and starred in a revival of "Cabaret." Yet the sight of Ringwald's face still triggers memories of where you were when you first saw "The Breakfast Club" and what you felt about her Claire, a prissy high school socialite. Ringwald never found a part that allowed her legion of "Breakfast Club" fans to wrap their heads around the idea that she's a mature woman.

From a showbiz perspective, it's all part of the circle of life: an ingenue is born, time passes, the glow of innocence fades and a fresh crop of replacement teen sweethearts bubbles to the surface, most of whom fade into obscurity. The baton passes from Alicia Silverstone to Jennifer Love Hewitt to Lindsay Lohan to wait-and-see. In 20 years, Lohan might be regarded as "the 'Freaky Friday' girl" or an actress in her own right.

What Jamie Lee Curtis sees when she looks at her "Freaky Friday" costar is someone to lecture to about showbiz.

"Lindsay has the dramatic and vocal ability, she's drop-dead gorgeous. But I don't know whether or not Lindsay wants to be a serious actress, to lose herself in a character," says Curtis, a daughter of Hollywood (her parents are Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis) who has floated in and out of film industry favor since she made "Halloween" at 18.

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