Jenna is a 13-year-old girl from New Jersey who dreams about becoming a super successful magazine editor in New York City at 30. As I celebrated my own 30th birthday this week, I looked back on the dreams I had at age 13 and found some striking similarities to the film…
The Film's Story
It’s 1987 and Jenna’s (Jennifer Garner) 13th birthday bash in her sleepy hometown somewhere in New Jersey. But she is quite unpopular at this stage in her life.
Somewhat frustrated about how badly her party is going, she locks herself in the cupboard and repeatedly utters the words: “I want to be 30, sexy and successful”.
Surprise, surprise: Her wish is granted and she is catapulted into the year 2004.
She is now 30 years old, lives in New York City, is pretty sexy and has a successful career as the high-flying editor of a fashion magazine.
Frightened and overwhelmed at all those sudden changes, Jenna contacts her formerly best friend Matt who also happens to live in New York now. He, however, doesn’t want anything to do with Jenna. On the way up the career ladder, she totally neglected her former high school friend because he was "totally uncool".
Slowly, but firmly, Jenna starts to realize that in order to get what she wanted to have achieved by age 30, she made sacrifices that may not have been worth it…
This is one of the rare film examples for which I think the German title, which is 30 über Nacht [30 Over Night], actually fits better. The story is funny throughout, but at the same time also makes the viewers question their own life choices. Sometimes it’s good to remember what you wanted at age 13 …
My own 13th birthday was on 24th of October 1998. As a 13-year-old, there were two dreams that I had in common with Jennifer Garner’s character Jenna:
Being from a small town myself, I always thought that living in a big city (ideally in a different country than my home country Germany) as the most exciting thing anyone could do.
Top of my list was the Big Apple. Having not been there yet, I could only imagine what New York City was like, for example by watching music videos such as New York City Boy by the Pet Shop Boys (1999)…
… or films such as Coyote Ugly (2000). I took my friends to see this film at the cinema on one of my birthdays around that time. I also got myself the soundtrack, which I then listened to over and over again.
The other dream was becoming a successful journalist and writing for a magazine when I had grown up.
So what became of my dreams 17 years later?
Dream 1: Living in a big city and living abroad
I did make that dream of living in a big city abroad become a reality. From 2011 until early 2015, I lived the "Bridget Jones" lifestyle in London, UK for 3.5 years. It was a great time, but I always knew that I wouldn’t live there forever. To the older me, the higher quality of life you get in less exciting, but calmer places, is now much more important.
I've also visited New York City three times on my USA travels in 2011, 2015 and 2017. I like it there, especially the friendliness of the locals (in my experience, New Yorkers are generally the most helpful Americans out there!) and the immense range of sightseeing options. But couldn't imagine to live in NYC anymore. It's too far away and too hectic.
Dream 2: Being a successful journalist
The other dream was to be working for a magazine. At age 30, I have indeed written a fair deal of articles about fashion and celebrities and I even got to see some celebs live at interviews.
Since the year 2004, when this film was made, there were some major changes in the journalist world though. Now, everyone can technically call him- or herself a publisher. All you have to do is self-publish a book or start your own blog. I opted for the latter. Let’s see where the journey will take me…
My verdict on the film: This cute little rom-com will always make you laugh and reminisce at the same time! Not only on the day you are turning 30!
**** 4 out of 5 stars