Written by: Heather Hach & Leslie Dixon
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Lindsay Lohan, Harold Gould, Chad Michael Murray, Mark Harmon
Walking in someone else’s shoes typically gets thrown out as an easy definition for empathy and rightfully so as it becomes the most direct manner to understand an individuals’ particular struggles not evident from the outside. Freaky Friday takes this idea and makes it literal in a body-swap movie held together by a brilliant lead performance.
On the verge of getting remarried, Dr. Tess (Jamie Lee Curtis) constantly fights with her teenage daughter Anna (Lindsay Lohan) over her lack of ambition and drive in life. Their constant bickering leads to them switching bodies with the wedding only days away. The pair must try to maintain the status quo of managing each other’s lives while also trying to find a way to switch back.
A cooky idea taken from a book, the premise of Freaky Friday could cause a world of nightmares but thanks to the wonderful actors involved with the project, it utilizes this idea in the best way it could possibly ever be executed. The idea of having two characters swap bodies and having it be successful comes down to whether the actors can sell they’re portraying the other and the two leads in this feature certainly succeed in this ordeal. Both Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis nail the initial dynamic and fully encapsulate the other when the switch actually occurs.
These two have squabbles much like those portrayed in many films of this ilk where there’s a successful mother and a daughter who chooses a different lifestyle and hobbies than the mother would prefer. Constant yelling and screaming take over the household and this switch, while potentially damaging, teaches them a valuable lesson to actually listen to each other when they complain about certain things in life. One major aspect where this comes in occurs with Anna’s struggles in school. Anna continually proclaims to her mother about the issues she has at school with a classmate and teacher, which get immediately dismissed because of the assumption the teenager is simply being dramatic. Once the swap occurs, Tess learns very directly of her daughter’s concerns after experiencing the horrible actions herself, which allows for a sobering moment of recognition. This occurs on both ends but Anna has much more fun in her mother’s body than the other way around.
When Anna controls Tess’s body, it displays Jamie Lee Curtis absolutely knocking out of the park with her comedic performance. Both in a physical sense but also in the way she delivers the lines, Curtis disappears into this role and at times I forgot the actor was not actually a teenager. The narrative does well to build the contrast of these two characters and the way they seamlessly take over the other truly works wonders. Lohan is certainly no slouch as she portrays the rebellious teen and then convincingly switches over to a more formal manifestation of Tess perfectly as well. Freaky Friday hinges on these two women and they do not let the story down by any means.
Despite all of the comedy this story has to offer with the switch, there’s a strong emotional undercurrent happening between these two throughout the feature. By the time the film reaches its climax, it occurs at a level of unison and emotional catharsis causing me to tear up. It stems from the real issue causing them to bicker. While the narrative only lays out a few days in the life between this duo, it becomes evident very quickly just how much they have argued for a while now. The big emotional issue making them go at each other comes from Tess getting remarried and Anna feeling like her mother has moved on from her father too quickly. This subject becomes a sore spot but the way it all comes together shows this film has more than just its cooky premise to push it through, but also something meaningful to portray about this mother and daughter duo.
With some sick jams to fill out the catharsis of the story, Freaky Friday finds the right balance of absurdist comedy and the emotional stitching together of this family. In complete disarray in the middle of planning a wedding, this crazy scenario allows them to bond in a way they have not for years. Everything in this story gives credence to the idea of stepping into another’s shoes and the events playing out here demonstrate the importance of trusting and believing in the people around you. Incredibly sweet, funny, and overall entertaining, this film holds up incredibly well from when I first watched it growing up.