Release: 23 Apr. 04
|13 Going on 30
BY: DAVID PERRY
“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.