Thirteen (2002)

“Thirteen” is the example of creative filmmaking with a great story behind it, and it’s a film that managed to spark a lot of controversy in 2003, but within the controversy, it also sparked a lot of conversation between parents and children, specifically parents and their daughters and prompted parents to take a second look at their children and question their activities a little more thoroughly, which is truly a good thing. It’s not often a good film brings positivity to the world that is actually genuine. These days either a positive film brings about negative reaction or a positive film tries too hard and never gets its point across because it’s mired in cheesiness and self-indulgence.

“Thirteen” loosely based on the troubled wild childhood of writer Nikki Reed, tells the story of Tracy, a young girl with a dysfunctional family who resents her self-involved father for barely being around, and resents her mother for bringing in freeloaders and seeing other men. In spite of the fact that mother Melanie (Holly Hunter who earned an Oscar nomination for this role) tries her hardest to bond with Tracy, she bears a lot of resentment towards her for her past and what she brought into the house with her boyfriend Brady who is an ex-drug addict. Jeremy Sisto who plays Brady pulls in an excellent performance as the loser boyfriend whom re-enters their lives with good intentions, reformed and set on making things right again, but Tracy hates him. He plays a supporting role in the film, but nonetheless, his performance is really good, and something to watch out for. Tracy, played by the likable and always talented Evan Rachel Wood, desperate to become popular outside her circle of bubble gum, adolescent girlfriends desperately makes friends with school rebel, the really gorgeous Evie Zamora played by writer Nikki Reed, the exact opposite of Tracy who ostracizes her at first, but takes a liking to her for her sheer tenacity in enduring their abuse and persisting in reaching for their friendship.

Instantly, in an act of rebellion, Tracy begins mimicking Evie’s actions through drug use, sexual activities, and a whole lot more, but it becomes clearly evident through the film that Evie has ulterior motives with Tracy, motives of which we don’t learn of up until the shocking climax that will just leave your jaw dropping. Parents quit looking through your kids drawers and e-mails, while there are many scenes of drug use and sexual activities, this isn’t a film that bashes teenagers as previous films like “Kids” or “Bully” did with their message of “kids are cruel perverse monsters”, it’s merely a cautionary tale and a warning from Reed, who seems to want people to learn from her, and director Catherine Hardwicke to take a closer look at your children, talk to them, and “Thirteen” will surely, and will hopefully open up the lines of communication, the movie as a whole really is about divorce and the effects it can have on a child with one parent raising a blossoming teenager alone, and one with a lot of unresolved issues and resentment. I really recommend parents watching this film with their children, sit them down and turn this on, because this is really true to life and never pulls its punches. In my book, movies that open up the lines of communication are always good for people, and this film will definitely open up communication and discussion between mother and daughter.

Tracy seems to enjoy the actions she commits throughout the film alongside Evie, but the audience instantly gets the sense that she doesn’t do it to enjoy it, but because she’s rebelling against her mom’s actions with their family She hangs around Evie, simply for guidance and companionship, something she lacks from her mother. She performs acts through Evie mimicking and following her every move like sisters guiding each other down a destructive path. They do everything together in the film and even commit sexual acts with one another just to explore, but we know Evie is an influence on Tracy, but the story does tend to raise the question if Evie influenced Tracy or if Tracy influenced Evie. The gorgeous Nikki Reed is surprisingly good in the supporting role as the manipulative and wild Evie who influences Tracy greatly throughout the film convincing her to commit awful activities as well as her rebellious attitude, but we’re never sure what her intentions are for her actions throughout the movie, and many of her actions are very questionable. The film is otherwise very well made and takes us into a story that is basically torn from everyday life while the message, all too brutal, resonates louder than the acting itself.

While the film does have everything where everything should be ala acting, direction, and great cinematography, the film just feels along the lines of an “After School Special”. While more blunt and often times more realistic, I still sat awaiting a commercial break and for an ABC network logo to pop up. The film doesn’t have any messages we haven’t already seen, which is why it’s not groundbreaking or trailblazing. We’ve seen films like these before from director Larry Clarke whose perverse and mostly pornographic films about kids and what they do when their parents aren’t looking, and “Thirteen” isn’t exactly a new article of film, and in the end with its pretty cryptic final scene, it’s still along the lines of an after school special. While a little too reminiscent of an after school special movie, this is just an excellent film with a great script, incredible acting, and a truly blunt cautionary tale to parents about the effects of divorce on a child.