Thirty, Flirty, and Thriving

Defining Success in "13 Going On 30"

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

That’s how sweet-but-awkward thirteen-year-old Jenna Rink feels about life. She’s frustrated being young and wishes she were like the women in glamour magazines. Though her mother explains, “Those aren’t people, dear; those are models,” her argument falls on deaf ears.

Jenna’s best friend Matt is also geeky but much more accepting of himself. He genuinely cares for her and their natural chemistry is obvious to everyone but Jenna herself.

Desperate to belong to her school’s popular chick-clique, Jenna invites them to her birthday party where they repeatedly make fun of Matt. Jenna even joins in.

The party, however, turns humiliating and Jenna angrily blames Matt. She sulks in a closet wishing she were thirty as some “wishing dust” from Matt’s gift slowly falls around her.

Rip Van Jenna
Jenna wakes up to find her wish granted. She’s a successful magazine editor in New York City. But she doesn’t remember anything about her life between 13 and 30.

After tracking down Matt, Jenna learns that they stopped being friends once she became part of the cool crowd in school. As more revelations unfold, Jenna’s self-absorbed existence begins to seem empty from the innocent, benevolent perspective of her teenage self.

Will the universe give her a do-over?

Who wants to be a conformist?
“13 Going On 30” is a delightful comedy that touches on issues like what we’ll do to fit in and how the choices we make ? even when we’re young ? can have a lasting effect on our lives.

Fitting in is a common dilemma growing up. There were plenty of times when I would have preferred being cool to being original.

In grammar school, for instance, I was pretty good at writing though I wanted to excel at sports. My early understanding of sentence construction didn’t win me nearly as many friends as shooting a basketball would have. But life goes on and we hopefully come to terms with who we are.

Older but wiser
Age should also help us realize that the relationships that make us popular or successful aren’t necessarily the ones that bring us fulfillment.

So what will our priorities be? When life gets busy, will we continue to make time for our true friends? Will career success cost us any personal relationships? Is it worth it?

The adult Jenna has gained the world but lost her soul. With 20/20 hindsight, she rethinks her choices.

Funny business
Aside from the occasional deeper questions, “13 Going On 30” is first and foremost a funny movie. In particular, Jenna’s livening up a party by dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller had the theater audience laughing and cheering.

As the adult Jenna, the luminous Jennifer Garner (TV’s Alias) gives a joyful performance filled with natural comedic spark. Christa B. Allen as young Jenna and Mark Ruffalo as the adult Matt are also outstanding.

“13 Going On 30” is a humorous reminder that real life doesn’t usually offer do-overs. So do your best to make wise decisions the first time around.