> Volume 6 > Number 17


Gary Winick

Jennifer Garner
Mark Ruffalo
Judy Greer
Andy Serkis

Release: 23 Apr. 04

13 Going on 30


“I don’t want to be original. I want to be cool.”

Jenna Rink says those words that must go through the mind of most teenage girls, confronted with the fact that the most popular girls are those who conform. Originality is a path to ostracism and ridicule, they assume, and some accept it. Rink doesn’t want to, and feels the pain of a failed birthday party because she thinks her conformity was denied by the popular girls because her chubby friend Matt was there dancing to Talking Heads. This is a film about Jenna, but what about Matt?

If there’s anything I like about 13 Going on 30, a film that goes all over the map to salute veiled conformity as a way to being a good person, it’s the emotions it gives to Matt (Mark Ruffalo, a charming actor who looks nothing like the popular guy, plays him as an adult, which is likely the best casting decision this film could make). He was broken emotionally 17 years ago when Jenna quit talking to him because of this incident, but he’s grown into a stable, interesting person in the interim. He may have hurt for many of those years, but he’s likely the better for it.

That the premise is about Jenna, magically transported from that 13th birthday to her 30-year-old self as a catty Condé Nast-like women’s magazine, is disheartening. Played by Jennifer Garner, Jenna is meant to be naïve to the world that’s changed so much in nearly two decades (Rick Springfield’s playing in Las Vegas while a guy called Eminem is selling out tours around the country -- oh the humanity!), but her recognition of the massive bitch she’s been is dishonest. I’m willing to accept her use of magic powder, but I reject the idea that her naïveté in a cosmopolitan Manhattan social world is invigorating to the back-stabbing, fellatio-obsessed magazine industry.

And worst of all, this is just supplemental material to what the film misses, which is Matt’s progression from being that chubby unpopular kid to being that nice guy in the apartment upstairs. I liked him, I wanted him to be happy, and I wanted him to get Jenna out of his hair as soon as possible. The fact that the film thinks his acceptance of conformity over originality is a happy ending is the most depressing moment in a Hollywood film this year. Matt’s bound to wake up one day saying “This is not my beautiful house; this is not my beautiful wife.” But Hollywood is same as it ever was

©2004, David Perry,, 23 April 2004