Freaky Friday (1976)

Freaky Friday
Director: Gary Nelson
Writer: Mary Rodgers
Based on: her own book
Cast: Barbara Harris, Jodie Foster, John Astin, Patsy Kelly, Dick Van Patten, Vicki Schreck, Sorrell Booke, Alan Oppenheimer, Ruth Buzzi, Kaye Ballard, Marc McClure, Marie Windsor
Seen on: 31.3.2020

Annabel (Jodie Foster) and her mother Ellen (Barbara Harris) really don’t get along at the moment. Both believe that the other has it so much easier, making them wish that they could just trade places for a day so that the other sees how difficult their life really is. And then their wish comes true. Annabel finds herself facing the way of full-time housewife, mother and wishfulfiller for the entire family, while her mother has to brave the various social and academic demands at school as well as the sports Annabel usually excels at.

I had never seen the original Freaky Friday, only the 2003 version (and that many years ago) and I have to say, while I’d say the idea is a whole lot of fun, the execution hasn’t really aged well.

The film poster showing a drawing of Mrs Andrews and her daughter Annabel merging into each other.

Since the film focuses on the family life a lot here, it makes obvious how much things have changed in the past few decades and how antiquated this take on housewifery feels. Not that there aren’t any women anymore who are stay-at-home-moms, but the demands on them have shifted, and the way men rely on them is much more subtle and insidious than the outright demands Mr Andrews (John Astin) makes here.

The film does make the point that being a stay-at-home-mom is no picknick, it’s a lot of work and it goes so far that Annabel (in her mother’s body) calls her own father a chauvinist pig, but in the end, it obviously doesn’t see the need to really criticize the order of things here. In fact, Annabel is shown to be less of a tomboy and becoming more diligent and it’s framed as great progress. That her mother may change as well (and might become more self-assertive) is mentioned, but not shown. It is that solution most of all that makes the film feel so dated.

Annabel (Jodie Foster) and her mother Mrs Andrews (Barbara Harris).

That being said, there was still a lot of fun to be had here. Jodie Foster is fantastic, as is Barbara Harris. Their switch is wonderfully executed. There are also some nice touches in the comedy department – especially with the car chase and what happens to the police cars there (although it definitely lasts too long for my taste – I have never enjoyed car chases a whole lot). I also loved the scene with the secretary, less the aggression Ellen (in her daughter’s body) shows towards her, but the way she transforms.

Altogether, it’s entertaining enough, but I can understand, why they felt the urge to remake it in 2003. I might have to re-watch that version, too, to compare it to this one here. We’ll see what I have to say then.

Mrs Andrews (Barbara Harris) getting a boomerang lesson from Boris (Marc McClure).

Summarizing: Entertaining, but antiquated.

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