Published Aug 01, 2003Thirteen is a bleak look at the life of grade seven student Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood), whose life spirals out of control when she falls under the influence of the popular, yet deeply troubled, Evie (newcomer Nikki Reed, who, at the age of 13, co-wrote the film based on her own experiences).
In a few short months, Tracy transforms from a relatively carefree and well-adjusted child into a lying, thieving, sexually active drug addled youth with a disturbing penchant for self-destruction. Tracy's mom, Mel (superbly played by Holly Hunter), herself a recovering addict, struggles in vain to reach out to the daughter that she used to be so close to while trying to hold the crumbling family together and stay clean.
This disturbing portrait of the darker side of junior high life (as if there is a lighter side) is reminiscent of Kids for its unrelenting explicitness in looking at the sexuality, drug use and criminal behaviour of its young subjects, but Thirteen imbues its characters with more realistic and complex motivations and a humanity that is sorely lacking in the Larry Clark film. The film's action is set against the urban backdrop of a Los Angeles far less glamorous than the film world usually offers, its streets and parks teeming with aimless youth getting up to no good.
First time director Catherine Hardwicke creates an appropriate visual landscape for Tracy's journey, slowly draining the film of colour and warmth until Tracy's hitting rock bottom occurs almost in black and white. The two young leads do a remarkable job of honestly capturing this torturous period of early adolescence, giving performances that are equal parts searing vulnerability and callous manipulation while showcasing the overt sexual bravado so frighteningly prevalent in today's barely pubescent women. (Fox Searchlight)