This weekend, I managed to have a social life while improbably watching a million hours of television. Consequently, I caught most of Mean Girls and most of Empire Records. Two films that bookend the formative years of my youth. In middle school, it seemed there could be no place or group of people cooler than the misfit employees of Empire Records. Mean Girls (simultaneously the antithesis of Empire Records and the post-Britney Spears answer to the desire to belong to something more special than oneself) came out just as I had finished high school, but not before I’d matured past the catty, snarky mentality it portrays with painful accuracy.
My personal evolution surrounding these films aside, both set up so many young stars for success. Look what’s happened to Liv Tyler, Rene Zelwegger, Rachel McAdams, and of course Lindsey Lohan. And as of Saturday night, I know what’s going on with Lacey Chabert and Ethan Embry.
If you haven’t seen Lifetime’s Imaginary Friend, do yourself a huge favor and check it out. This thriller is amazing because, even at the very end of the movie, I have no idea what happened. I don’t understand who killed who, who was crazy, who was imaginary. I like to think of it as an allegory of the current American political climate, but actually, it’s really just a poorly written movie sensationally acted by two of my generation’s unsung heroes.
Lacey Chabert is beloved by millions as the youngest member of Party of Five, a show I was definitely not allowed to watch growing up, but she shone as Gretchen Weiners, the most unstable of the Plastics. She was brilliant, but has yet to enjoy the same mainstream success as the rest of her cohorts. This may be because she has become physically indistinguishable from Jennifer Love Hewitt. It’s uncanny, as though they were secretly the same brilliant actress all along.
Ethan Embry stole the hearts of mostly those same millions playing an offbeat heartthrob in Can’t Hardly Wait, That Thing You Do, and Vegas Vacation! He has worked steadily for the last twenty years. I don’t know when this happened, but he aged really quickly. He is four years older than Lacey, but looks as though he could be her father. I wish I could say that was the director’s vision, achieved through crafty make-up, but I know Lifetime doesn’t have that in the budget.
Imaginary Friend, which I would not have turned off had the Zombie Apocalypse come right to my door, is a paragon of Lifetime’s cinematic quality. But despite its greatness, the movie left me feeling a little blue. Nothing reminds you of your own mortality like seeing your teen idols (or demi-idols) aging before your very eyes. With Photoshop and plastic surgery, it’s easy to delude ourselves of their eternal youth, and thus our own. Thank goodness we have Lifetime movies to provide enough self awareness to bring us to our knees.