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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > Thirteen

MOVIE REVIEWS

THIRTEEN (2003)

Starring Evan Rachel Wood, Holly Hunter, Nikki Reed, Brady Corbet, Jeremy Sisto, Deborah Kara Unger, Sarah Clarke, Vanessa Anne Hudgens, Jenicka Carey, Tessa Ludwick, Ulysses Estrada, Jasmine Salim, Charles Duckworth, Cynthia Ettinger, Kip Pardue and D.W. Moffett.

Screenplay by Catherine Hardwicke and Nikki Reed.

Directed by Catherine Hardwicke.

Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures.  95  minutes.  Rated R.

Thirteen

Hollywood keeps trying to convince us that we should be horrified of synthetic boogeymen like Freddie Krueger and Jason Voorhees.  But ask any parent and they’ll tell you the scariest thing in the world is a girl going through puberty.  There is nothing that can give a person the cold sweats more than that awkward period in time when a young woman goes from stuffed animals to stuffed bras, she loses interest in toys and gains interest in boys, she graduates from Mary Janes to hip huggers, belly shirts and other types of junior slut-wear. 

Thirteen is an unflinching exploration of this time of life.  Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood) is a young, gawky, studious, sort of nerdy girl.  An outcast in the social circles in her new junior high school, she is nonetheless thoughtful, smart, responsible and loving to her family.  But she secretly craves attention and popularity.  She also has a secret tendency to lock herself in the bathroom and run a pair of grooming scissors across her wrists until she bleeds. 

Tracy finds her entree to the popular crowd through Evie (Nikki Reed).  Evie was an early bloomer who is now a junior sexpot.  She's cool, she's gorgeous, she's fearless, all the boys want to know her... Evie is everything Tracy wishes she could be.  But beyond her in control exterior, Evie is something else.  She may look 18, but she still has the mentality of a child.  She is a user who falls back on a poor-little-misunderstood-girl hard luck story whenever things don't go her way.  Evie introduces Tracy to truancy, alcohol, drugs, petty crime, piercing, sex, lying and a form of snobbishness towards her old life, friends and family.  

Wood… who was arguably the best actress in the extremely talented TV ensemble that brought life to the drama Once & Again… puts on a truly amazing display of acting.  Her character of Tracy is at times nave, bratty, trusting, dismissive, in control, out of control, seductive, petulant, self-pitying and Wood is always believable.  Even when her personality has been overtaken completely by a startling casual cruelty the audience can still feel the innate goodness in her straining with her acts. 

Reed is now 16, but she co-wrote this film based on her own experiences when she was only 13.  Since she's a little old to play the role based on her own experiences, she took on the part of the wild girl.  As an actress, Reed is quite wonderful as Evie.  Despite the repulsive things that Evie can do, Reed helps you remember that Evie is still just a little girl trying to act like a woman.  Despite her apparent self-confidence, she is every bit as confused about her life as Tracy is.  Evie quite probably isn't sure why she feels compelled to act as she does, either. 

Holly Hunter is quietly heartbreaking as a helpless mother seeing her child spinning out of control and having no idea how to cope with it.  Jeremy Sisto (Six Feet Under) is very good as Hunter's recovering coke-addict of a boyfriend who is now trying to broker peace between a mother and daughter who are pulling in opposite directions.  Brady Corbet is tremendous as the older brother who wants to save his sister, but also wants to shield his mother from the pain of Tracy's actions.  D.W. Moffett has a nice cameo as the self-absorbed absentee father who has little or no time for his children. 

Unlike other recent youth-gone-wild movies like Larry Clark's Kids, this movie does not just revel in the misbehaviour of children.  It makes you like them even when you don't like what they do.  You hope they can pull themselves out of the spiral they have placed themselves in.  Thirteen leads you to hope that with work, a healing is possible.  (8/03)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright 2003 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved. Posted: August 31, 2003.

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Copyright 2003   PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved. Posted: August 31, 2003.