Thirteen Movie Review

You can't argue that the film Thirteen doesn't know its teenagers. It gets all the obsessions and silly little dramas just right - the autobiographical script was written by one of the film's stars when she herself was thirteen - but just knowing the milieu isn't always going to create gripping drama.

After an opening scene in which 13-year-old Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood) and her friend Evie (Nikki Reed, the writer) suck gas from a can of compressed air, laugh hysterically, and slap each other senseless, Thirteen flashes back to four months earlier, in order that we can get an idea of how Tracy got this way. Tracy's family situation is nothing spectacular, what with a distant father who only occasionally pays child support and a flaky mom (Holly Hunter) who scrapes by as a hairdresser and keeps letting Brady, her former cokehead boyfriend (Jeremy Sisto), sleep over. Her life seems pretty dull and irritating, so when Tracy ditches her nerdy friends to suck up to Evie, the lead Heather in the school's hottest clique, it makes an adolescent kind of sense. But when that friendship quickly morphs into an unending stream of shoplifting and drinking, Tracy also starts lashing out at her mother and pretty much everyone else around her, except Evie, who has essentially moved herself into Tracy's bedroom.

It's to the film's credit that, even as sympathetic as it is to Tracy's growing pains, it never really tries to excuse her behavior. Tracy clearly views her mother and Brady as losers, but they actually come across as well-meaning people doing their best to get by, so when Tracy tears into them - egged on by the quietly evil Evie - it comes across as mean-spirited and has the effect of creating sympathy for the adults instead of the kid. Also, the film usually eschews the easy-answer approach so common to adolescent fiction and drama. Although Evie is definitely the instigator of Tracy's acting-out, we see that Tracy was troubled long before, judging by the legacy of self-inflicted scars on her wrist.

As impressively complex as it is, Thirteen is nevertheless hampered by its schizophrenic mannerisms. On the one hand, it seems to want to speak with to its target audience of adolescent girls with an earnest, WB-esque pop soundtrack and quick-cut montages. On the other, Thirteen has a desperate urge to feel real and gritty, thus we get a plethora of loosely-scripted scenes that often dissolve into screaming fits and tussling - some of the rougher scenes between Wood and Hunter are the kind of thing that De Niro and Pesci used to indulge in for Scorsese.

In more experienced hands, this half-gloss, half-realist technique could have achieved a kind of supreme pop perfection: MTV by way of Cassavetes. But first-time director Catherine Hardwicke (who worked on the script with Reed), though she's given the film a graceful look on what was obviously a tiny budget, can't seem to make the material matter. The result of this is that a lot of the rebellion on display can seem exploitative, in a borderline Larry Clark (Kids) manner. Also, Hardwicke is unable to coax performances out of her cast that are much more than serviceable, with the exception of Hunter and Reed, who, though not an actress, makes an indelibly villainous impression with a minimum of effort.

As a film about 13 year-olds written by a 13-year-old, Thirteen should have been much, much worse, but its scattered moments of clearly-realized adolescent angst are scuttled by a wandering and frequently juvenile approach.

The DVD is a jabbery affair, with all the major cast and crew ganging up on a commentary track, plus a making-of flick and 10 deleted scenes.

All eyes on the teens.


babiiyourlove's picture


ahhhh.i think that some people dont understand this movie. me, on the other hand, basically expierenced this movie. i understand the feelings of the whole movie. i think this movie some people may think is unbelievable, literally, some people may think it is an exaggeration, but i know that all these things that happened in this movie, do happen, and verry well have to some people.

7 years 9 months ago
View Comments

Thirteen Rating

" Weak "

Rating: R, 2003


More Evan Rachel Wood

James Marsden Lands Role in HBO's 'Westworld'

HBO is known for big budget television series featuring high calibre stars, and it looks like their latest project is no different. 'Westworld' is based...

Evan Rachel Wood Sued for $30 Million over '10 Things I Hate About Life'

Evan Rachel Wood is being sued for $30 million after dropping out of the lead role on new romantic-comedy 10 Things I Hate About Life....

Evan Rachel Wood and Jamie Bell: Looking Back, Was A Split Inevitable?

It's not usual for a Hollywood split to shock us, but the announcement that Evan Rachel Wood and husband Jamie Bell are separating after just...

Evan Rachel Wood And Jamie Bell Split: Did Evan's Girl Crush Cause Rift?

Evan Rachel Wood and Jamie Bell have split after just 19 months of marriage, a spokesperson has confirmed to Us Weekly. The couple have a...


Celebrity Engagements That Didn't Last

The most shocking break up news of the week goes to Glee star Naya Rivera and now ex-fiancee Big Sean. The pair have called it...

A Week In Movies: 12 Years a Slave leads the pack, Depp is on set in L.A., plus peeks at Godzilla, romances, comedies and lemurs

The big news this week is the further escalation of awards-season fever. Steve McQueen's drama 12 Years a Slave continues to lead the field as...

'Barefoot' Sees Evan Rachel Wood, Scott Speedman Embark On Free-Spirited Romance [Trailer]

You'd think we'd be sick of sweet and smoochy rom-coms by now but it seems that our appetite for an original and entertaining love story...

Barefoot Trailer

Jay's lived a less than honest life, sleeping around with women he could never care about, fritting away money he doesn't have in casinos and...