The story is familiar, one that everyone can relate to. It's about Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood), a painfully impressionable teen who desperately wants to fit in with the 'cool' crowd, who ironically are anything but. The 'cool' kids are repugnantly crass - truly revolting people. Tracy unfortunately thinks otherwise, becoming best friends with the utterly amoral prize bitch Evie (Nikki Reed). Her influence upon Tracy is immediate, and their activities together soon escalate; Tracy quickly becomes a scheming, stupid and cruel little bitch, too. Her descent is exasperating to watch, partly through how powerless Tracy's suffering mother (Holly Hunter) is.
The performances are remarkably natural, they really are. It will never age in this respect, peak realism is shown here. Hunter and Wood have scenes of intense emotion, the kind of emotion so desperately strong that it transcends everything. The excitable exchanges between Wood and Reed are also commendable for their credibility. The film could be a real eye-opener to teens that are experiencing similar situations. The film would show them that Tracy isn't cool or radical; she's just another kid in the midst of a predictable, cringe-worthy cycle that has been experienced by millions from all generations.
'Thirteen' will have you wanting to commit acts of extreme violence. If you can restrain your temperament throughout the many scenes of vast obnoxiousness, gross injustice and scores of vulgar, idiotic characters - I salute you. All of this, however, is testament to the power of the film. It's an unpleasant watch, but the provocation it causes is interesting, I've written this review faster than usual!
This was quite naturally acted and the escalation of events were told well, holding up a mirror to teens of any era.
Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Nikki Reed, Holly Hunter.
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The story follows an A-grade, 13 year old student who, after getting befriended by the newly popular girl in school, she changes herself physically to get noticed and soon spirals and changes into something else that ultimately affects her and those around her.
Catherine Hardwicke really hits you where it hurts here. Sure, the bleak-doco style is nothing original these days in such a film, but Thirteen is made all the more powerful and unexpectedly emotional thanks to Catherine's great skill to control the emotions and channel each of her characters so well and really stick them center stage...and the brilliant handheld work (surprising when I thought it was steadicam) and bleak, bleached-out cinematography which is amazingly shot, really works well alongside it all.
What really shocked me was the fact that star Nikki Reed, aged 15 at the time I might add, co-wrote the script for this film and loosely based it on a real-life experience. The script is grounded so far into realism that some might find it too much to take. The characters are brilliantly defined and given enough heart to make us care for them every step of the way, which only adds more to the raw emotion the script throws at us...and thank god it never sinks into soapy-pop culture trends and views.
The performances are truly outstanding. Holly Hunter is mind-blowing as the single mother trying to support her family. Her impressive balance between the characters caring notions for her children and her blinded ways of the things around her is simply amazing to watch and when things kick into an emotional gear, her performance gets even more powerful. Everyone seems to automatically point to Holly Hunter as the great performance of the film, but really it belongs to Evan Rachel Wood. For someone with such mediocrity in acting at the time, she takes big steps up and rips through her troubled character with such raw power and understanding and its easy to say that if she keeps this up, she will go far, a truly powerful performance.
Thirteen is simply a shockingly and unexpectedly powerful film. A brutally realistic, if slightly exaggerated portrayal of a torn family and the unfortunate reality of teenage life. Brilliantly directed with a familiar style handled so well, powerfully acted and astonishingly written...and with help from the 15 year old co-star Nikki Reed (co-writer), it makes it all the more realistic. It may be a great thing at first to know your kids 'grow up so fast', but think twice. Highly recommended.
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The cinematography at times achieves a pure form of cinema verite rarely seen in modern American dramas. Some people dislike this movie, and claim it is the content, but I believe it is this realistic filming style which is too intense for select viewers.
I highly recommend this movie for its overall quality, but especially because it imprinted several shot sequences into my "instant-access" film memory, the mental rolodex you scroll through your head when you're trying to set up a shot of your own.