Well, well, well. A teen movie that isn’t trying to sell a soundtrack. Thirteen is a film about adolescents that actually tackles the real issues they face with unflinching eyes. The last time that happened, the movie was called KIDS, was rated NC-17 by the geniuses at the MPAA so that no teen could see it and saw its message about safe sex go unheard. With an R rating for some of its intense situations, Thirteen and its engrained warnings about what can happen if you don’t parent your child effectively at that age, is something that the Freddy Prince Junior movies of the 90’s and even the studio censored Crazy/Beautiful, never touched on. I won’t ruin the films beginning. It may be too realistic and disturbing for some to stomach but its impact drives home the fact that this is no after school special.
Evan Rachel Wood, of ABC’s canceled television drama, Once and Again, carries this movie on her back from the first scene until the credits roll and the lights go up. Wood’s Tracy is the focal point of this movie and is extremely reminiscent of Claire Danes’s Angela Chase from the similarly canceled ABC drama, My So-Called Life. Both girls deal with adolescent angst and both feature a bad influence, in Thirteen, it’s the co-writer of the screenplay, Nikki Reed, who portrays that influence (Evie Zamora) so perfectly. The film’s first time director and screenplay co-writer, Catherine Hardwicke, shows the viewer a clear view of a teen girl who’s enduring a troubled home life. Karen Monerieff effectively did the same thing earlier this year with her directing efforts in Blue Car.
Unlike Blue Car, which is a poignant film, moving one moment and twisted the next, Thirteen is a descent into darkness and despair in the vein of Requiem for a Dream. The film moves Tracy quickly from the safe confines of writing poetry to the risqué arena of wearing thongs above jeans and drug experimentation. Throughout the movie, Evie grows more and more dependent on Tracy. As Tracy relationship with her mother, played by Holly Hunter, a mother barely holding her life together, begins falling apart, Evie becomes a surrogate part of the family and begins calling Hunter’s Melanie, Mom. When Evie’s biggest fantasy about Melanie and Tracy is destroyed, Evie takes her revenge as methodically as only a classic teen bad girl can.
This is not an easy movie to view. It has many difficult scenes, one of note being the “Jail Bait, Rape Scene.” I know what you’re thinking and it’s not that at all. It’s something else along the lines of Disclosure. Thirteen is not a movie for everybody, it’s a little too aggressive in tone for teens to sit through without a parent next to him or her but it’s acted superbly by actual teens and not twenty year olds. Teenagers of Tracy and Evie’s age will be more receptive to the underlining messages in Thirteen because of that fact. The reality of this film is that if you’re a teen, you already know that people like Evie Zamora and Tracy exist. You see them walking down the halls of your school everyday but now, after seeing Thirteen, you’re more aware of them, what they represent to you and your life as you know it.