The year started off hopefully enough, for those who kept an eye out for a Lindsay Lohan turnaround: Her December 2009 trip to India called attention to child trafficking for a BBC documentary. A few weeks later, she hosted a London fundraiser for Haiti earthquake victims.
But the comeback story that spectators were seeking never quite came through, although she didn’t lack for offscreen drama. The effects of her goodwill mission didn’t last long, with reports of a drunken spat with her ex Samantha Ronson. In February, Lohan dug into the roots of her bad behavior in a British newspaper exclusive and said all the right things: “I tried to mask my problems with alcohol, cocaine and mind-altering substances. Now I’m in a place where I don’t need to use anything and I can feel emotions because I choose to.” She also blamed her woes on her father, who lent credence to her point by starting his year with an arrest for criminal contempt and custody hearings for missing child-support payments.
Those winter confessions of hitting rock bottom didn’t follow with a notable rise. Tough months lay ahead: She separated from French design house Ungaro, ending her “disastrous” stint as artistic director. She filed a $100 million lawsuit objecting to a Super Bowl commercial that featured the E-Trade babies — including a “milkaholic Lindsay” — but the suit was met with derision. However, Esquire did give the crying-over-spilt-milk controversy some heft when its reporter retrieved the original ad script, revealing baby-name choices like Gutter Hound, Jailbait, and Skanky Cake before the ad agency settled on “Lindsay.”
By spring, conflicting reports emerged about erratic behavior, not helped by her divorced parents airing their differing concerns to the press — and often. Her father Michael fretted about his daughter’s survival, while her mother Dina dismissed rumors of addiction and debt. Familial issues came to a head in April, when her dad attempted a Britney Spears-style conservatorship and persuaded L.A. police to break into his daughter’s apartment — a move that sent Lohan into a Twitter fury.
On the upside, Lohan scored a good report in alcohol education classes for being unfailingly polite and receptive. But that wasn’t enough to forestall a warrant for violating probation when she missed a mandatory hearing to go on a Cannes film festival jaunt. She had to get fitted for a new SCRAM bracelet, an accessory all too familiar to her followers.
Even before the electronic monitoring bracelet let out its first alert, which would ultimately result in Lohan’s abbreviated jail term, everyone from Bill O’Reilly (“We should all pray for this woman. Her clock is ticking.”) to Joan Rivers (“That girl is going to be dead in 10 years if somebody doesn’t take care of her.”) asked the grim question: Who would save the troubled actress?
Headlines became increasingly ruthless, if not histrionic: “Lindsay Lohan Careening Toward a Career Dead End” (The Wrap), “Could Lindsay Lohan’s Career Possibly Be More Ruined? And Other Metaphysical Questions” (Gawker), “Lindsay Lohan’s once bright future takes a detour into troubled waters” (Los Angeles Times), “Success or mess: Who is the real Lindsay Lohan?” (AP), “Lindsay Lohan’s career of wrong turns” (CNN), “Lindsay Lohan’s Tragic Fall” (ABC News). A New York Post article dimly compared her comeback chances with those of a Hollywood bad boy: “A woman cannot get old and cannot lose her looks. [Whereas] Robert Downey Jr. became more handsome as he got older.”
Lohan may have had some “I told you so” revelations: She was ordered into rehab, where UCLA doctors disputed earlier diagnoses of ADHD and bipolar disorder. The clinic allegedly “weaned off” Lohan from several potent legal prescriptions, including Dilaudid, Ambien, and Adderall. Her first onscreen role in three years, “Machete,” hit the theaters to mixed reviews, but at least it was a job. She also showed she could still poke fun at herself.
The actress even landed the October cover of Vanity Fair and a pre-jail interview, in which she denied abusing prescription drugs, disdained her father’s publicity mongering, and echoed her words from February with more defiance: “I don’t care what anyone says. I know that I’m a damn good actress. … And I know that in my past I was young and irresponsible — but that’s what growing up is. You learn from your mistakes.”
But a failed post-rehab drug test, which Lohan confirmed in a tweet, meant 13 hours in jail and going back to rehab for stint No. 5. The court-ordered extension to stick it out in rehab until January 3 postponed Lohan’s comeback again (her biopic role as porn star Linda Lovelace had been scheduled to start filming in November) and had the actress pleading hardship in paying the Betty Ford Center’s expensive treatment. (At least she settled the E-Trade lawsuit.)
Her probation report, however, lobbied for the longer stay “to save her life” and pointed to a “family of dysfunction.” (And again, to prove the point, her father broke his vow to stop speaking to the press, while her mother allegedly shopped an idea for a rehab reality show.) Court-ordered or not, the time-out just might keep her from the “entourage culture,” in which cohorts fill in where parents abdicate, or from those “who devour her.”
–Vera H-C Chan