Thirteen (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner21/10/2003

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 100 mins

Well-written with superb performances, this is an impressive piece of work which really shows up Hollywood 'teen' movies for the homogenised rubbish they usually are.

Catherine Hardwicke’s directorial debut Thirteen deservedly won the Best Director award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and it’s likely to be extremely well received here too. Co-written by one of the film’s young co-stars (Nikki Reed), it’s a superbly acted, moving and scarily realistic drama that, quite literally, doesn’t pull any punches – the opening scene involves the two leads laughing, snorting aerosols and punching each other in the head because their faces are numb.

The rest of the plot is simple but effective. Evan Rachel Wood plays Tracey, a 13 year old girl with an older brother and a single mother, Mel (Holly Hunter) who's struggling to make ends meet. After the summer, Tracey goes back to school and discovers that one of the girls, Evie (Reed), has 'grown up a lot' and is now a drop-dead gorgeous babe and the most popular girl in school.

Drugs, Theft, Sex…Typical Teenagers

Tracey promptly drops her 'still playing with Barbies' best friends and starts hanging out with Evie, which almost immediately leads to shop-lifting, doing drugs, making out with boys and so on. There's a great scene where she first sees what Evie is really like and, crushed, is on the point of going home. And then Fate intervenes in the shape of a stranger's purse…

The rest of the film details Tracey's disintegrating relationship with her mother as Evie subtly insinuates herself into Tracey’s home-life and pretty much moves in with them. It also throws in a couple of sickeningly graphic piercing scenes and some very nasty self-harming scenes, as well as the extremely disturbing aforementioned opening.

Superb Performances

The performances are superb with Hunter on top form as a woman struggling to hold it all together and unable to comprehend what’s happening to her daughter. Wood is excellent too and is extremely convincing in her transformation. Reed’s performance is, if anything, rather chilling as her pretty, central casting face masks a very messed-up character.

The supporting cast is equally good and includes: Debra Kara Unger (Hunter's co-star in Crash) as Evie's messed-up guardian, Jeremy Sisto (Billy from Six Feet Under) as Hunter's on-off ex-boyfriend and Sarah Clarke (Nina from 24) as one of Hunter's friends (there's a hint that they are both recovering alcoholics, whereas Sisto plays a recovering drug addict). Kip Pardue (Victor from Rules of Attraction) also has a bit part as their neighbour, who the girls unwisely decide to have some fun with.

The film is both frightening, moving and startlingly well-acted – if there’s any justice, Hunter will pick up an Oscar nomination. It also never seems false (Reed apparently worked hard on the dialogue, while Hardwicke handled the plot), and really brings home the transition from 'playing with Barbies' to 'sexy young adult'. There are several great scenes but the last few minutes are unbearably tense. It also has a really unusual almost-final shot, which works well.

In short, this is an extremely enjoyable film, if a little harrowing. Hopefully the BBFC will see sense before its release and re-classify it so that its title age group can see it too. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

Thirteen (18)
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Content updated: 17/10/2017 17:56

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