The Hayley Mills Parent Trap Is Way Better than the Remake

Recently it has come to my attention that the internet at large is gravely mistaken about one
very important thing: that the Nancy Meyers film The Parent
is the best and only version of this story. I’m very
sorry to tell you that it is not. Why on earth does the
internet insist on referring to Lindsay Lohan’s film debut as
canon? Please, for the love of Hayley Mills, stop this at once.

The reasons for holding the 1998 remake so high do make sense.
It’s a Nancy Meyers movie, replete with the sumptuous interiors
and kitchens she’s known for. It also marks the film debut of
Lindsay Lohan. The fashion in the film is very now, with its
muted, ’90s pastels and
casual, aspirational summertime
While those reasons are certainly valid, what
no one is acknowledging in any of this is the existence of the
original, which I learned upon a recent viewing is a delightful
romp that is far superior to the remake.

If you’ve seen the Meyers remake, then you know the plot:
Hayley Mills stars as both Sharon McKendrick and Susan
Evers, two identical twin girls split up and raised by their
parents separately. Sharon is a stuffy Boston Brahmin with an
inexplicable English accent, raised by her mother Maggie,
played by the effervescent Maureen O’Hara. Susan is a scrappy
and exceptionally wealthy tomboy raised by her father, Mitch—a
strong-jawed and strapping example of mid-century American
masculinity, played by Brian Keith. There is an evil
stepmother, but her name is Vicky instead of Meredith and she’s
an icy blonde snake, in the vein of the Baroness from The
Sound of Music.

Aside from casting choices, everything else is pretty much the
same: the twins are switched, hijinks ensue, and in the end Mom
and Dad are reunited, perpetuating the dangerous myth that
divorced children can hoodwink their parents into loving each
other again by tricking them into being in the same room and
falling in love once more.

Of course, there are a few updates, but what I refuse to
understand is why anyone would fuck with the remake when the
original is so much better? It’s basically the same movie! Why
watch two Lindsay Lohans clomp around a summer camp when you
could watch two Hayleys doing the same shit, but way better?
Tribute must be paid to the original greatness that offered
Lohan the chance to shine as Annie and Hallie: Hayley Mills’s
indefatigable sunniness as one of the hardest working child
actors of her time. Mills is the product of a time in Hollywood
when studios like Disney invested in actors as if they were
stocks instead of human beings. During her heyday, Mills was
one of the most successful child actors of her time. She was
the last person to win the now-defunct Juvenile Oscar
for her work in Pollyanna. The jaunty song “Let’s Get
Together,” which Hayley Mills sings as a duet with herself in
the middle of the original film, made it to Number 8 on the
Billboard Hot 100. She also endured the quiet indignity of
wearing one of the most unconscionable wigs I’ve ever seen in
my life—a cross between a pageboy and a short Prince Valiant.
It’s quite ugly, but you know what, she’s doing her best.

Has Lindsay Lohan ever charted? Show me Lindsay Lohan’s Oscar,
juvenile or otherwise. The only thing these two women have in
common aside from starring in this movie is that neither one of
them is really acting anymore. Mills has had a career that
befits the daughter of beloved British actor Sir John
Mills—long, tasteful, kind of generic, very posh. Both
actresses may have peaked in their roles in The Parent
, but for Mills, her inevitable descent wasn’t the
deafening crash that Lohan’s was.

Also, while I do appreciate the splendor that is a Nancy Meyers
interior, there aren’t nearly enough Pinterest boards or
Apartment Therapy posts
dedicated to replicating the look and feel of the absolutely
bonkers California ranch house where Susan, the American twin,
lives. Swap out the kind of dated furniture and do something
about that floor—is it carpet?—and I would gladly move in

Photo: Walt Disney Pictures

This bathroom is actually a Jack and Jill situation
between the master suite and the twins’ bedroom, which I guess
is weird, but who cares, it’s enormous and full of insanely
kitsch tilework. Have you seen this in the background of a
fucking Into the Gloss Top Shelf? Squint
and you can almost see a Diptyque candle flickering on the
ledge of the tub. Looks nice, yeah? Smells good.

Photo: Walt Disney Pictures

Do you see this shit? This is a giant courtyard in the middle
of their house, with a goddamn wishing well. It has
landscaping. It’s everything I’ve wanted in a home. And,
according to various sources, it was all built on a soundstage.
The exterior is part of the Golden Oaks Ranch that Disney
bought to use for shooting
like Old Yeller and these ridiculous
interiors were constructed on a set. Disappointing to say the
least, but inspirational nonetheless. What —if anything—about
the 1991 remake of this seminal childhood classic has moved you
as much as this fake-ass ranch house moved me? Nothing.

Photo: Walt Disney Pictures

Erasing Hayley Mills’s very important work AND the high kitsch
of this ridiculous film is rude! She acted in scenes with
so that others could follow in her footsteps. Give
respect where respect is due. Hayley Mills, Juvenile Academy
Award winner, made the best version of The Parent
. I dare you to tell me otherwise.

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