Thursday, October 05, 2006

13 going on 30: Chick Flick Sick? Teen Movie Tricks? or Does it Just Have Something to Do with Mark Ruffalo?

You are probably wondering why the hell I am writing about 13 going on 30 *

I like Clueless, Legally Blonde, and Mean Girls. I'm a sucker for six-hour A&E period dramas like Pride and Prejudice and Vanity Fair. My favorite movies growing up were Freaky Friday and Heathers. I think all of these are considered "chick flicks." But I hate crap like Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally. And I can't even watch Affair to Remember or Dirty Dancing -- or --holy hell-- Pretty Woman. [I will never ever stop being shocked by the number of women who list Pretty Woman as one of their favorite movies. Fuck.]

Anyway, the subject of chick flicks and teen movies** has been on my mind since I watched 13 going on 30 and found it totally compelling. I didn't see it in theaters. I'm pretty sure it was out around the same time as Mean Girls, and I didn't even go to the movies to see that. I haven't ever really been a fan of Jennifer Garner, despite the fact that she kicked ass on Alias (I just couldn't get past its inferiority in comparison to Buffy). It was only because it was recommended by a friend that I even considered watching this movie.

Anyway, 13 going on 30 seems to exists in the Bermuda triangle of genres -- somewhere between the saccharine Olsen/Disney movie, the chick flick, and the teen movie. It's like Big or Freaky Friday in that's it's a high concept farce that exploits the premise of "be careful what you wish for," but this also means that it must negotiate some pretty, er, creepy scenarios when kids end up in very, um, adult situations. And it's inversion of the Lolita story -- the way the fantasy reveals a grown man's desire for someone with a 30 year old woman's body but with the brain of a 13 year old -- is, um, pretty strange. Moreover, the movie's (apparent) evasion of any explicitly gendered issue is curious; the notions of "nice" and "mean" are diced and discussed, but this doesn't seem to connect to anyone's consciousness re: constructions of femininity. Overall, this movie is an odd cocktail of winsome and creepy, charming and confusing, refreshing and disappointing.

I can't help but wonder if this also says something about this particular cultural moment; Mean Girls and The Devil Wears Prada are two movies which seem content to at once diagnose the conditions that lead to "mean girl" behavior (patriarchy, capitalism) and to ultimately acquiesce to the status quo. While I find both of the aforementioned movies entertaining, I would never call them progressive. In fact, I consider them quite the opposite, especially compared to movies like Heathers and Cruel Intentions.

But I cannot write about 13 going on 30 without mentioning Mark Ruffalo. I've liked him since seeing You Can Count on Me. And his role in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mine was way too tiny (in my version he played the part Jim Carey played). But I didn't even know that he was in 13 Going on 30. I just assumed the male lead was played by Jared Padalecki or some other clown. But it's Mark Ruffalo. And he is really really good.

*Okay, I know what you're thinking. I only felt like talking about this movie because of Ruffalo. That could be true.

**I'll likely be writing more about teen movies in the coming months, as I like to have them on as I work on my teen novel(s). Would love to know what y'all think about this genre.

ETA: The 13 going on 30 dvd comes in a pink case that smells like bubblegum. ick.


ren said...

I just read Stick Figure about an eleven year-old with anorexia. If you haven't read it, it's great teen-type reading.

And I watched Heathers every day when I was fourteen. I think I was obsessed with the ending.

I love teen novels and I wish I had more time to read them!

mzn said...

I like all the movies you mention except Pretty Woman. I really like Dirty Dancing and When Harry Met Sally...

I don't remember 13GO30 nearly well enough to say anything meaningful about it, but I definitely had the impression that Jennifer Garner was better doing this kind of material than she was in Alias. She's much more talented as a comic performer than as an action heroine.

zp said...

Fascinating post despite the fact that it is on two subjects I have no interest in - romanticomedy and teen film and someone named Mark. And "holy hell - Pretty Woman" that about sums it up.

But, have you seen a spooky 80s girls' film by Disney - The Watcher in the Woods? We watched this in daycare when we were little and found it very influential, I just added it to my allconsuming movie log. Involves a team of sisters, kind of like the novel Footsteps on the Stairs. Another smart pre-teen girls sci-fi (maybe sci-fi lite) mystery is The Girl with the Silver Eyes. Actually, I think all of these involve super-extra-perceptive girls, like The Haunting. If you've read these, I'd love to hear what you think. Not that you're writing a supernatural teen novel.

So, um, yeah, I like super-perceptive action heroines. What else is new?

Elka said...

Although I'm not a Garner fan, I am an Alias fan. I LOVE alias. Mostly for Victor Garber, actually. I would totally do Mr. Bristow, and he's a diabetic! Yay for diabetic role models.

I, too, was suprised by how much I enjoyed 13/30. It's got the cute magical premise, the funtimes "I've got boobs!" schtick that Warner can actually pull off, and most importantly, Mr. Ruffalo. Although I was initally embarrassed at his role in this, I was surprised by how well he pulled it off (unfortumately the same cannot be said of his starring role in that schlocky Witherspoon vehicle Just Like Heaven).

It's pure teen fantasy, the 13/30, especially for those of us who would crap out a kidney to make out with Ruffalo. Damn, the man married a woman named Sunshine...what gives?

femme feral said...

I've never seen watcher in the woods, but many people have recommended it to me, so it is on the list.

extra-perceptive girls rock.

extra-perceptive girls is a great name for a band.

femme feral said...

and zp, you are joking about not being interested in Mark Ruffalo, right?

femme feral said...

elka, I know that you are MR's tru love.

And I gots to come see you girlie!

Bloglisted said...

the watcher in the woods scared the shit out of me. i don't know if it hold up so many years later. but the images in my mind from my youth STILL surface when i'm home alone at night.

porkmuffin said...

M R is already my boyfriend. don't even try.