Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Nikki Reed, Holly Hunter
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Anyone who was unable to magically fast forward through their teens knows of the insecurity and conflicting emotions that can be generated during the time when one begins to try to come to grips with the transition to adulthood -- all while undergoing daily transfusions of hormone cocktails. "Thirteen," recently released by Fox Searchlight Pictures, somehow manages to successfully capture one 13-year-old girl's disturbing evolution.
Tracy, played by Evan Rachel Wood, is transformed before your eyes amazingly from a sweet-as-pie girl from a broken home to a frightening, free loving, fire breathing, and drug-using teen from hell -- all in less than two hours. Not since the "Exorcist" or "Carrie" have I been more afraid to shop at the local mall in the heart of the most natural habitat of teenage girls.
Ms. Wood's portrayal of the pleasant plain Jane, who suddenly becomes fixated with and eventually swept away by the "most hottest" girl in her junior high, demonstrates Wood's continued evolution as an actress, having watched her grow into the role of an anorexic teen in the acclaimed television series, "Once and Again."
The film is deliberately shot in a grainy, herky-jerky style which allows the growth, or shall I say denigration, of Tracy to be told in a convincing fashion. The acting is superb, led by the dazzling supporting role of Holly Hunter as Tracy's mother, who is herself trying to pull together her own broken life while raising her children and dealing with the complicated challenge of dating and bringing another man into her children's lives.
Evie, the bad girl Tracy is eerily drawn toward, is played by Nikki Reed. Both teenage actresses demonstrate the range of acting and emotion that is usually reserved for adults picking up golden statues each spring. In fact, you eventually forget how old these girls are and how old their characters are intended to be. What is even more astonishing is the fact that the screenplay was co-written by the director, Catherine Hardwicke, and Reed, when she was actually only 13. Then again, maybe it's not much of a surprise since, as my friend pointed out, only a 13-year-old girl could have written some of the dialogue and captured this point of view in such a realistic fashion. (Okay, I'll admit to being biased in this review -- it's very easy to enjoy a movie when accompanied by a gorgeous friend!)
The only lapse in the film was the surprise plot twist near the end that was not carried through to the fullest possible extent. This may have been due more to time constraints than anything else, and at least it was orchestrated in a thoughtful, intelligent manner rather than in a slasher "Jason leaps out from the lake" kind of way.
This movie is a must see for anyone who has a daughter or thinks they may someday have a daughter. One word of warning, however, is that "Thirteen" is very painful to watch -- not because of bad acting, stale dialogue or any of the other usual suspects of many film buzz kills, but due to its intended and almost too effective depiction of the angst which drips through the screen and permeates the audience, leading us to the eventual devastating destruction that follows. If you can, bring a date, since it presents the perfect opportunity to show your sensitive side as well as your ability to sit through a "chick flick" -- and the bonus is that this one actually rocks!
~Jeff "The Net" Neterval