Grading Lindsay Lohan’s Comeback Attempts

Ahead of the premiere of Lindsay Lohan’s new docu-reality series, we wanted to take a closer look at her career (and personal) recovery. While most view the time around the release of I Know Who Killed Me as her big breakdown moment, troubles for the actress started shortly after the success of Mean Girls. Lohan was under a microscope. After collapsing during the making of Herbie: Fully Loaded and getting into a string of car accidents, her her star started to diminish. Suddenly everyone was wondering if she was worth the effort or even all the unwanted attention. Since then, Lohan has been struggling to bounce back and erase any memory of the past decade with a series of comeback attempts.

Comeback Attempt #1: Don’t Call It a Comeback

Immediately following the success of Mean Girls, Lohan completed her final obligation to Disney: Herbie: Fully Loaded. During that time she recorded her debut album, Speak. Overworked and stretched thin, Lohan collapsed on set, got into her first of many car accidents and started dating Wilmer Valderrama. While Just My Luck was a minor hit, insiders were beginning to grumble over Lohan’s troubling off-screen antics.

In order to stall the “good girl gone bad” reputation, Lohan quickly signed up for two adult ensemble films, A Prairie Home Companion as Meryl Streep’s daughter and Bobby as a bride-to-be in the hotel where RFK was assassinated. Lohan excelled in both, proving that she had the acting chops to stand alongside Streep and Sharon Stone. But both films presented an unsettling omen: Lohan was not a redhead in either film. Blonde and brunette dye jobs would later prove rough for Lohan’s career.

Final Grade: A-

Comeback Attempt #2: The Breakdown

All the good graces earned back from her foray into adult films was erased when her reputation got the best of her. Studio executive James Robinson called Lohan unprofessional in a letter, citing late arrivals to set and absences from filming due to partying. While filming I Know Who Killed Me, she checked herself into a rehab facility. She withdrew from A Woman of No Importance and was dropped from The Edge of Love because the studio could not insure her. The rest of 2007 was a disaster for the actress: I Know Who Killed Me flopped, she was in and out of rehab, work on her third album was stalled.

In order to recover after one heck of a yearlong flop, Lohan secured a 4-episode arc on ABC’s hit series, Ugly Betty. (TV arcs became the PR move of 2008, with Britney Spears pulling the same move with an appearance on How I Met Your Mother.) She followed the series with a recreation of Marilyn Monroe’s last photo shoot for New York magazine, launched her own fashion line, 6126, and attempted to lend her services to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. 2008 could be summed as throwing darts in the air and seeing what landed where.

Final Grade: C-

Comeback Attempt #3: Fool Me Once

Following a disastrous attempt to do anything and everything, 2009 proved to be even worse. Lohan dabbled in fashion, nearly destroying the French fashion house Emanuel Ungaro as its artistic adviser, she continued to get political by taking on Sarah Palin on her blog, and robbed by the now-infamous teenage crime cartel turn movie, The Bling Ring. During all of that she served an extended probation for a DUI after she failed to make court appearances and attend court-ordered treatment.

During all of this, Lohan made some stabs at an air of control. She mocked herself in a Funny or Die spoof about her relationship with Samantha Ronson, served as guest judge on the sixth season of Project Runway, and got back into acting. She found time to complete her role in Machete, which saw her playing a “campier, trampier version of herself.” (Did you ever imagine there ever could be such a thing?!) And she also narrated the BBC documentary, Lindsay Lohan’s Indian Journey, about human trafficking. While Machete may have seemed like a wink and a nudge to everything going on, it wasn’t enough to get back up on the horse. And the documentary? Just weird.

Final Grade: D

Comeback Attempt #4: Fool Me Twice

After a half-assed attempt in 2010, Lohan found herself in a number of legal troubles, mainly the charge that she stole a necklace from a jewelry store. (It’s like, “Seriously, Lindsay? Seriously?!”)

Skipping past all the drama of the next two years, 2012 was greeted with trepidation. She completed her probation was more-or-less “free.” Now it was time to get back up on that horse that she merely starred at a few years earlier. 2012 was a doozy of work, let’s run through it real fast:

  • An ill-advised but highly-publicized Playboy photo shoot that once again saw her mimicking Marilyn Monroe
  • Her first hosting gig on Saturday Night Live since 2006 that was as flat as the heart monitor on her career just one year prior
  • A cameo as “herself” on an episode of Glee, which pitted her against (or side-by-side) Perez Hilton
  • A gig as a surfer in the art film, First Point
  • The rushed and poorly-executed Liz & Dick on Lifetime (oh the metaphors for Lindsay’s life)
  • The bait and switch interview with a tough Barbara Walters for a safer Jay Leno on The Tonight Show
  • The ultimate parody of herself in Scary Movie 5 (and reports that she clogged the toilet on set… oops)
  • Acting opposite of another public head case, Charlie Sheen, on Anger Management

Final Grade: A for effort, B- for execution and project choices

Comeback Attempt #5: The Oprah Challenge

While she made a gallant effort in 2012, it proved too be too much for Lohan. She had troubles with her health on the set of Liz & Dick and after filming (and drinking her way through) The Canyons, Lohan ended up back in court-ordered rehab. Following the 90-day stint, she was, once again, free. And so began another attempt at a comeback. This time, with the Oprah touch of rebirth.

Immediately following checking out of rehab, Lohan hosted Chelsea Lately to rave reviews. She was funny, looked healthy and fresh, and was back to a familiar red dye job. The much-publicized Kickstarter project, The Canyons, finally made its way to theaters. Although a flop, it was work that showed there was an actress yearning to do more tucked away deep inside an empty bottle of booze. Finally, it came time for that Oprah Winfrey interview. In an orange Alessandro Dell’Acqua dress and a pair of Oscar de la Renta polka dot pumps, Lohan faced the jury of Oprah in a tell-all interview. It seemed that Lohan was ready for Oprah’s Next Chapter, ready to make good on all that promise of Mean Girls, ready to grow. Lohan signed up for the “you shall overcome, call to Jesus” challenge to stay sober and have herself filmed while doing it.

The year ended on a relatively sound note, she stayed out of trouble, supposedly hired a hit on Barron Carter and was spotted riding Citibikes throughout New York City. She greeted 2014 with an appearance on the premiere of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and a preview of her new show, Lindsay.

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