As Lindsay Lohan is learning, the comeback trail is marked with three tried-and-true steps.
Step one: Cry for Oprah. Lohan is checking that one off in epic, riveting fashion. Step two: Now that you’re relatable again (everyone loves a good ugly cry), you’ve got to be relevant again. That means: go viral on late-night TV. Thanks to Dave Letterman, Lohan’s got that covered, too. Now, step three: prove that you can still act.
Ah, that one. It’s the step that’s been the biggest struggle for Lohan to reach. Partly because no one wants to hire her. (Sporadic stints in jail and rehab and a reputation as Hollywood’s biggest flake will do that to a girl.) But also because it’s the thing that’s been looming over Lohan’s entire public meltdown. “It’s a shame, she was such a talented actress” is the common refrain when lamenting what’s happened to Lohan’s once-promising career.
But as more time has passed and her attempts to resurrect the notion that she’s good at this whole acting thing have failed—a robotic SNL stint, a polarizing campy turn in The Canyons, utterly silly cameos in things like Scary Movie sequels—it’s been hard not to wonder if maybe she’s lost her abilities for good. Or, worse, maybe she was never really that good in the first place. Maybe the warm feelings we have when thinking of her precocious Parent Trap debut, spunky turn in Freaky Friday, or star-is-born performance in Mean Girls is a look back at her career through rose-colored glasses, tinted out of pity for a girl who lost her way, but who maybe was just OK to begin with.
Harsh? Maybe. But that’s the repercussion for years of baiting and switching. Years of Lohan’s promises to return to Hollywood and prove once and for all that she belongs there. That the second, third, fourth, and by-this-point-feels-like fourteenth chances the industry have given her haven’t been for naught—and then tanking once again. So, yes, as she bravely—or, maybe, foolishly and fruitlessly—marches down the comeback trail once again, we’re more keen than ever to examine her performance on step three of the journey. It’s about time girl proves that she can act.
And so comes Lohan’s appearance on Monday night’s episode of 2 Broke Girls, as a vapid and indecisive bride-to-be who commissions the titled impoverished bakers to make her wedding cake, only to torture them with her neurotic waffling. The verdict? She acted! And was actually kind of great.
Listen, she’s no Meryl Streep in these few scenes. Hell, she’s not even a Kat Dennings. But she is serviceable. She knows her lines. She’s animated. She’s crafted an actual character, rather than lazily just playing “Lindsay Lohan on 2 Broke Girls.” (Though jokes about the character she played like, “She’s so crazy I should just make a cake and have psychiatrists pop out of it” may have some debate that latter point.)
Beyond all that, though, she seems to be actually having fun. In the onslaught of “I’m going to turn my life around!” interviews that Lohan has given since leaving rehab the most recent time, the Mean Girls star keeps reiterating that she’s dying to get back on a film or TV set, because that’s where she apparently feels alive, feels a purpose, and, most importantly, manages to keep herself out of trouble. That spark, maybe for the first time since all of this troubled star nonsense started, is finally shining through again. That argument that Lohan has repeated ad nauseam by this point is finally a little bit convincing.
There’s a caveat to all of this, of course, which is to say that she didn’t exactly pick the most challenging of roles to stage her “I can act again!” coming out with. It has to be pointed out that Lindsay Lohan guest starred in a comedy and nothing she did was really all that funny, or made us laugh. That’s honestly less Lohan’s fault, though, than it is the fault of the 2 Broke Girls writing staff that counts gags about how often one character changes underwear as major laugh lines and gives Lohan only one major punchline: “He doesn’t want to do the cake stuff, but I don’t want to do the butt stuff. You know what I mean?” Charming.
But, hey, that the saltiness of Kat Dennings and the sweetness of Beth Behrs that should make 2 Broke Girls the perfect comedy cupcake has been made rancid by the show’s rotten writing is well-trodden territory by this point. It’s only necessary to bring up here because one can’t help but wonder how Lohan would fare now with an acting challenge like the one she didn’t quite live up to with The Canyons. Or maybe if she had starred in a comedy that would require a more natural performance than the perfectly on-tone, but still undeniably cartoonish one she gave on 2 Broke Girls. What if she was required to play an actual human again, maybe on that show about the four broke girls, Girls? Could Lohan, who we now consider a news personality more than an actress or even a human pull such a thing off?
For the first time in a long time, thanks to her willingness Monday night to go for Broke, we think she just maybe could.