I’m a huge fan of
Freaky Friday — you know, the Lindsay Lohan-Jamie Lee Curtis 2003 body-swapping film. It’s a perfect vehicle for Lohan’s acting skills, and it stars peak ’00s floppy-haired Chad Michael Murray. But now that I’m looking at it as an adult, I will admit that there are a few things I never noticed back in the day that are a bit freaky (pun absolutely intended). Even Jamie Lee Curtis admitted it was a “ weird movie,” because she had to play both a 15-year-old and a 45-year-old — though she also said it was among the best acting experiences of her life.
Let’s be clear, I’m absolutely not saying we can’t still love and enjoy this classic flick — I might go watch it again right now — but it’s worth exploring the stranger aspects of the film. With the benefit of hindsight,
Freaky Friday definitely looks a little different. The subplot about a teen dating his crush’s... mom?
I remember thinking it was a
little uncomfortable at the time, but re-watching as an adult, it’s even crazier than you think. Older high schooler Jake (Murray) starts to develop a crush on Anna... while she’s in her mom’s body. This subplot goes on for a while, with Jake fully falling for this older woman, before Anna returns to own body — and then Jake randomly “switches” back to liking Anna, without ever learning about the body-swapping shenanigans. So if he doesn’t know who he’s actually with... does he even consent, really? (Also, Jake stalks Tess — even showing up at her wedding rehearsal — so that’s not great either.) The mom-and-daughter switch is made possible by a Chinese spell.
anti-Asian stereotypes abound here, but perhaps the cringe-iest (other than the Chinese American restaurant owner’s depiction as mercenary and money-grabbing) is that her Chinese mother, depicted as not speaking much English, gives Anna and Tess the “exotic,” “charmed” fortune cookie that makes them switch bodies. Yikes. Lohan’s real first kiss was on set.
Murray spoke about this in 2017 — and explained
the unorthodox way Curtis helped prepare Lohan for her onscreen kiss. “Jamie's like, 'Alright, get in my trailer.' And she's talking to Lindsay … like, 'Just kiss him. Come on, just give him a pop kiss, it's no big deal. Let's break the ice now,” Murray said. But Lohan was still hesitant, so Curtis stepped in. "She goes, 'Oh, come on!' She just grabs me by the back of the head and makes out with me in the moment." Uh. The same romantic weirdness applies to Tess’s future husband.
The film bends over backwards so Anna-as-Tess doesn’t have to (eek) kiss her future stepdad Ryan (Mark Harmon). But in the third act, she tacitly agrees to (oh no) marry Ryan because she realizes her mom truly loves him. Thank goodness for that conveniently timed switch-back-into-their-own-bodies
immediately afterwards, otherwise the honeymoon situation was about to get super tricky. Steve Grayson/WireImage/Getty Images Anna’s teacher torments her because... her mom rejected him in high school.
Oh, right. Tess-as-Anna realizes Mr. Bates (Stephen Tobolowsky) has been flunking Anna because he and Tess went to high school together. He asked Tess out, she said no because she had a boyfriend — and he was “weird.” He’s been nursing that grudge ever since, and has recently begun taking it out on her daughter. Oof.
Why does Anna have to pretend to be a therapist, again?
Therapists have “family emergencies,” too, you know! Listen, I get that that Anna taking over Tess’ job responsibilities makes for some funny scenes, but think about if for a minute. Tess tells Anna just to nod and ask how it makes people feel, which is... not therapy? And the patients’ mental health issues are made into a joke, from the incoherently weeping woman to the anxious and unhappy Evan (Willie Garson), whom Anna-as-Tess repeatedly calls the wrong name.
Tess (in Anna’s body) literally cheats on a standardized test — and sabotages a classmate’s scores.
It’s weirder now that we know all about
college admissions and standardized test scandals, but even at the time it’s a strange scene when Tess, in Anna’s body, sneaks into the room where the honors-qualifying tests are being stored for safekeeping, changes her own answers, and sabotages her high school enemy Stacey (Julie Gonzalo) by writing “I’m stupid!” all over her booklet. Does Tess want her daughter to be expelled? The character of Anna was supposed to be Goth, but it was deemed not relatable enough.
According to a
retrospective, Lohan told People Vanity Fair in 2006 that she thought there wasn’t enough mass appeal for the character written that way. “No one could relate to the character when she was really Goth. There was nothing there,” she said. So she dressed like an Abercrombie model at her audition and the part was rewritten — which feels a bit depressing, in hindsight. That “crypt-keeper” comment.
I realize that I’m a lot closer to Curtis’ age now, so this is probably my insecurities talking, but she was only 45 when this was filmed — yet the film makes her out to be
so old and out of touch, and dwells on her “saggy” butt. You can still be cool in your 40s, right?
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