Holly Hunter, Evan Rachel Wood, Nikki Reed
| Directed By :
It seems like we give out a lot of "A"s and "B"s on this
site. I feel like the easy teacher everyone tells their friends
to sign up for. I went in to see this movie perfectly ready
to tear into it, and yet here I am with an "A". Maybe it's
a testament to the amount of quality entertainment available
these days -
In Thirteen, Melanie (Hunter) is trying to raise her
family with only monetary support from their absent father.
Her daughter Tracy (Wood) is just coming to that age where
social pressure is encouraging her to move from stuffed animals
and pastel socks to tight jeans and hoop earrings. Enter Evie
(Reed), the new hottest girl in school, who's attracting all
the boys' attention after having blossomed during the summer.
Instinctively jealous and envious of Evie, Tracy does anything
she can to strike up a friendship and follow Evie's example
into young adulthood. Their relationship spurs the two on
into the misadventures of youth while simultaneously distancing
Tracy from her struggling mother.
Thirteen is the story of a girl's transition into
young adulthood and all the pitfalls that accompany it. It
is not EVERY girl's story. It is an example of the
cool girl, the troubled girl, the one who used to be all sunshine
and smiles when she was younger and what happened?! There's
at least one in every school, and more in some. So, no, the
movie's not trying to say "this could be your daughter", but
it is saying "this is SOMEBODY'S daughter." This girl
has a broken home, is being raised by her mother (who's struggling
with alcohol, money, needy friends, and abusive relationships),
is lower-middle class, is in an urban environment. These are
typical statistics. This is more the "norm" now than mom and
dad with a two-story house and white picket fence and two
point five kids. There's a lot of hype around this movie for
it being so small. A lot of people are saying it's excessive.
It is. But does it happen? Yes, and more than most people
probably think. It's not a scare tactic, but it is a warning,
a wake-up call.
That being said, it's a fine movie. Directorial and writing
debut for Hardwicke, previously a production designer, also
the writing and acting debut for Reed, who had a lot of input
on the script for being only thirteen! Wood is definitely
an up-and-comer. The overall feel of the movie is gritty,
real. All the elements - writing, acting, directing - are complementary.
Without analyzing them, they make sense, they exist in a way
that seems perfectly natural. The girls are giddy, the mom
wants to be cool, the father wants to waltz in and be told
what the problem is "in a nutshell" - and you feel suddenly
uncomfortable when the scene shifts to a confrontation with
drugs or sex or piercings or cutting your own arm just to
feel something pure. All this is tackled straightforwardly
and honestly. All the characters are flawed, and all are likable
and understandable. They have motivations you can identify
with, for better or worse. Few people have probably experienced
the level of debauchery in this movie, but everyone can identify
with a few parts, whichever they might be.
I've kind of talked a lot and said nothing in this review.
Here's the bottom line: Thirteen is good. Very good.
Like any movie with something to say, some people will feel
it's over the top or in bad taste, and some people will get
it. Those that do get it are in for a treat. We are all being
raised by 30 year old kids who screw up all the time and haven't
grown up themselves. How do we as a society deal with that?
This is what this movie is trying to show, and it does a great
job. Go see it if you can handle it.