Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood), a thirteen-year-old girl living with her mother, Mel (Holly Hunter) and her brother in the suburbs of Los Angeles, is a gifted student, but more concerned about her popularity than her grades. After she succeeds in befriending another girl at her school, the popular but troubled Evie (Nikki Reed), her life runs off the rails as she and Evie urge each other towards sexual experimentation and other risk-taking behaviour.
Review by Jake Wilson:
Part conservative family values tract, part kiddie-porn exploitation flick, Thirteen is mainly a case of false advertising: the de-saturated colours and codified Dogma camera moves (plenty of jump-cuts and zooms) are meant to suggest edgy realism, but that doesn’t make the film a more telling portrayal of teenage life than, say, The Breakfast Club. Young Nikki Reed, who’s credited as co-screenwriter as well as playing the heroine’s best friend, presumably drew material from her own experience, and some of the details feel authentic (Evie’s pleasure in calling Mel by her first name, for example).
But generally the film gives the impression less of fresh observation than of running through a shopping list of generic elements: truancy, shoplifting, sex (with a touch of lesbianism), drugs, body piercing, self-mutilation. There’s little attempt to distinguish unremarkable teenage escapades from symptoms of pathology, nor are we given any insight into the causes of the girls’ behaviour beyond cliched scenarios of parental abuse and neglect and a still vaguer indictment of contemporary media.
Thankfully, Holly Hunter, as the frazzled, not terribly bright single mum, never slips into the snobbish exaggeration associated with this kind of role; easily the film’s biggest asset, she’s particularly good at conveying the character’s warm, sisterly rapport with her daughter (a beautician herself, Mel is never happier than when they’re shopping for clothes).
Despite Hunter’s contribution and some other redeeming features I can’t see adults getting much out of this, unless they’re easily shocked or have very specialised tastes. Young girls themselves might have some fun – though given the teenage capacity for self-dramatisation, amply on display in the film itself, it’s possible they’ll view Tracy and Evie’s walk on the wild side more as wish-fulfilment fantasy than cautionary tale.
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CAST: Evan Rachel Wood, Nikki Reed, Holly Hunter, Jeremy Sisto, Brady Corbet, Deborah Unger
PRODUCER: Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, Michael London
DIRECTOR: Catherine Hardwicke
SCRIPT: Catherine Hardwicke, Nikki Reed
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Elliot Davis
EDITOR: Nancy Richardson
MUSIC: Mark Mothersbaugh
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Carol Strober
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 11, 2004
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: July 7, 2004