THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The original Freaky Friday provided an early role for Jodie Foster, and it also launched a mini-genre of body-switching pictures such as Like Father Like Son, Vice Versa, and Big. In Hollywood, everything good must be remade, so now we have a new version of Freaky Friday. Surprisingly, this is not a bad remake at all. Updating this story to the current day only shows how relevant the concept was to begin with. You could probably remake it again in twenty years and come up with something just as timely.

Jamie Lee Curtis stars as Dr. Tess Coleman, a popular psychologist and author. Her new book has just been published, her practice is booming, and in two days she will walk down the aisle with fiancée Ryan (Mark Harmon). Despite all those good things, Tess’s life is complicated. Maintaining all these things takes an extraordinary amount of work. On the flip side are the frequent conflicts with daughter Anna (Lindsey Lohan). The fifteen-year-old girl is like many other teens: she craves independence and privacy. She also knows just how to throw a well-timed hissy fit when she doesn’t get her way. Anna feels her life is complicated too. She doesn’t really warm up to Ryan, one of her teachers is out to get her, and there’s a bully who torments her continually. Anna’s big passion is music; she plays in a rock band that her mother only marginally approves of. Mother and daughter clash royally over all the things that parents and teens clash over. Anna’s favorite refrain is “you’re ruining my life!”

One evening at a Chinese restaurant, they each unknowingly open a magic fortune cookie, given to them by a woman who knows their troubles. The message inside says something about going on a journey that will end in a selfless discovery. The earth shakes, but they’re the only ones who feel it. They wake up the next morning in each other’s bodies. Forced to live inside one another’s skin creates some complications. For example, Anna worries that her mother will do something to discourage the boy at school she has a crush on. The switch also creates awareness on both sides. Tess learns just how hard it is for her daughter to fit in at school, while Anna comes to understand just what this new marriage means to her mother. Of course, you know that lessons are learned by the end, thereby allowing them to re-enter their own bodies.

Freaky Friday works because it surrounds its unrealistic premise with a lot of realism. Anna is certainly indicative of a lot of teens today. She’s struggling to find herself, and that search is often tempered with self-centeredness and moodiness. Tess, meanwhile, is like a lot of adults. She is a workaholic, often blind to what’s going on right under her nose. It’s easier for her to criticize her daughter than it is to understand her. Because the movie sets up the strained relationship between Tess and Anna so well, the empathy they ultimately gain for each other feels authentic. There’s a moment at the end when Anna – still inhabiting her mother’s body – makes a speech at the rehearsal dinner. In it, she imparts all the knowledge she’s learned, knowing full well that her mother inhabits her own body just across the room. I got a little choked up at the scene. That’s a sign that a movie is working. When it makes you feel something, you know there is truth to the portrayal.

I have always found Jamie Lee Curtis a difficult person to dislike on screen. She is such a life force, always full of energy no matter what film she’s in. That quality really makes her performance here work. Yes, she does a great job playing the harried mother, but she does an equally great job playing (essentially) a teenager. She gets all the mannerisms and the attitudes of a cocky fifteen-year old girl just right. You can feel the joy she is having playing this dual role. It bounces right off the screen. Lindsay Lohan is every bit her equal. She nails the temperamental, over-dramatic Anna in the early scenes, then shifts smoothly into the concerned, out-of-touch parent. Casting is key to this film, and these two actresses nail the laughs as well as the heartwarming stuff.

I like, too, the fact that Freaky Friday doesn’t go for just the obvious jokes. Sure, there’s a scene where Anna (in her mom’s body) maxes out some credit cards buying expensive clothes to create a hip new look. That kind of thing is to be expected. What I didn’t expect was the weird attraction Anna’s boyfriend has to the super-cool person he thinks is Tess. Nor did I expect the hilarity of watching Anna (as Tess) try to avoid the gross factor of getting romantic with her future stepfather. The film finds lots of original ways to use the body switch concept.

There is a certain forgone conclusion with this type of story. Anyone knows that mother and daughter will eventually gain a deeper respect for each other, thereby allowing the switch to be reversed and an improved relationship to blossom. One can’t help feeling a few steps ahead of the plot in that regard. Then again, who cares? Freaky Friday really works. It has lots of laughs, but the human element is also there and that’s what makes this a movie worth seeing.

( out of four)

Freaky Friday is rated PG for mild thematic elements and some language . The running time is 1 hour and 35 minutes.

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