Thirteen

"Very Good"

Thirteen Review


A frank and unnerving depiction of the peer-pressure slippery slope scaled by kids hungry for cool cache in the callous caste system of teenage social politics, "Thirteen" is a movie that rings startlingly true, thanks in no small part to co-writer Nikki Reed -- currently 15 years of age -- whose own experiences in a Los Angeles junior high served as fodder for the plot.

Told largely from the amorphous perspective of 7th grader Tracy (the compellingly natural, pubescently lovely Evan Rachel Wood), the film is a grippingly reckless joyride through impetuous shoplifting, impulsive piercings, improvised inebriation and rushed sexuality by a promising, once-ingenuous young girl who has yet to form a real sense of self.

Dying to buddy up to Evie, her school's early-blooming queen bad-girl who is lusted after by all the boys (and played by the prematurely sultry Reed herself), Tracy progressively throws caution, schoolwork, self-respect, loyalty, a close bond with her mother (Holly Hunter) and all her misgivings to the wind. A blank slate eager to be drawn upon, she falls deeply under the influence of this girl whose lifestyle of borderline depravity is itself a precarious experiment in ego-fulfillment and a byproduct of an unhinged upbringing.

Director Catherine Hardwicke -- a talented production designer on films like "Tombstone," "Three Kings" and "Vanilla Sky" -- started writing the script with Reed, the daughter of her boyfriend at the time, as a creative outlet for the girl, who seemed headed down a potentially wayward path. The result is easy to believe yet painful to accept -- and impossible to turn away from.

Because the film is told through Tracy's eyes there is an anxious underpinning to almost every scene, but you also get a sense of fun from her recklessness -- even when our instincts as an observer tell us there's danger, as when Evie pushes Tracy into a sloppy jailbait seduction of a much older surfer-dude neighbor. Hardwicke isn't making an After School Special here. "Thirteen" has a sharp, disorienting bite that stays with you for weeks afterwards.

Fourteen-year-old Evan Rachel Wood, who already showed a lot of Kirsten Dunst-like potential in last year's "Little Secrets" and "S1m0ne," carries the film with a fearless, potent performance of mood swings (in one scene from apprehension to elation to tearful resentment all over her seeming acceptance into Evie's clique), self-doubt and hidden psychoneuroses as she rips herself from the trappings of childhood and quickly traps herself in an almost unrecoverable spiral for the sake of popularity.

Reed makes a hell of an impression too, manipulating both Tracy and her haggard, heartbroken divorcee mother (the incredible Holly Hunter). "Her boyfriend hits me," Evie cries and lies to Tracy's mom (but deliberately out of Tracy's earshot) while angling for a place to stay away from her irresponsible drunkard guardian (Deborah Kara Unger).

Hardwicke and Hunter also do a beautiful job of placing the audience in the mother's shoes. A recovering alcoholic emotionally roughed-up by her divorce, and therefore trying to walk an intangible line between being a disciplinarian and being a cool mom lest she lose her daughter too, Mom bites her tongue as Tracy grows up too fast, leading to an excruciating moment in which she realizes her silence has backfired: She watches as the girl leaves the house with provocative thong underwear riding up out of her low-cut hip-huggers, feeling like a helpless, clueless bystander in the Lolitaization of her daughter.

Only Tracy's father (D.W. Moffett) is less than 100-percent authentic. A self-absorbed businessman, he's an obligatory, one-note, one-scene narrative pit stop who comes to "have a talk" with Tracy, at one point answering his continuously ringing cell phone to reveal where his priorities lay.

Playing out over the course of a school year in which Tracy goes from a very promising student who writes insightful poetry to a class-ditcher who may have to repeat the 7th grade, "Thirteen" does offer a sliver of light at the end of the tunnel, but Hardwicke isn't about to provide any sharp relief.

A visualist by profession, Hardwicke's cherry-on-top contribution to consummate the film's mesmeric atmosphere is the striking cinematography of Elliot Davis, which makes brilliant use of dutch angles, bleach bypass (a process that leaves a layer of grainy silver on the print) and other optical techniques that heighten the sense of instability, grit and disorientation.

"Thirteen" doesn't preach or pat its audience on the head, and its goal isn't shock value, like "Kids," Larry Clark's unnervingly overstated document of dysfunctional teen sexuality. It's a movie that connects every audience member with the soul of every character and makes you feel what it's like in the darker corners of modern American adolescence.



Thirteen

Facts and Figures

Run time: 100 mins

In Theaters: Friday 7th November 2003

Box Office USA: $4.5M

Box Office Worldwide: $4.6M

Budget: $2M

Distributed by: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Production compaines: Sound for Film, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Working Title Films, Antidote Films (I)

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Fresh: 122 Rotten: 28

IMDB: 6.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Tracy Louise Freeland, as Evie Zamora, as Noel, as Melanie 'Mel' Freeland, as Mason Freeland, as Brady, Ulysses Estrada as Rafa, Sarah Blakley-Cartwright as Medina, Jenicka Carey as Astrid, as Birdie, Jasmine Di Angelo as Kayla, Tessa Ludwick as Yumi, as Luke, Cece Tsou as Businesswoman, Jamison Yang as Science Teacher

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Advertisement
Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Sing Movie Review

Sing Movie Review

The quality of the animation in this musical comedy may not be up to Pixar...

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.