UK release date: Sep 8 2009

cast list

Evan Rachel Wood
Nikki Read
Holly Hunter

directed by
Catherine Hardwicke

Everyone knows that being a teenager is no picnic. Being one in today’s world is probably as easy as running a marathon with two broken ankles.

Catherine Hardwicke’s new film, Thirteen, chronicles the life of thirteen year-old Tracey (Evan Rachel Wood). After falling under the influence of Evie (Nikki Reed), the most popular girl in school, Tracey finds herself entangled in a fast paced world spinning her sedentary life and emotions wildly out of control.

Her mother, Mel (Holly Hunter), tries to understand her daughter’s radical transformation. Each time she reaches for her, she learns the extent to which she’s fallen just beyond her grasp.

The screenplay, by first-time director Hardwicke and 15-year old co-star Reed, is underdeveloped and clichd, coming off like an after-school special by way of cable television. One minute, Tracey is a model teenage daughter and student and the next, without missing a beat, she’s become the Spawn of Satan.

There are hints and indications here and there as to what may have caused Tracey’s quick descent into Evie’s world of destructive behavior, but there is nothing beneath the scenes of the young girls doing drugs, drinking and having sex that get us to care about them or what is happening to them. Hardwicke is under the impression that a non-stop assault of such images is how you get your point across. But without any sense of empathy, she only wears down the audience.

The one slight edge Thirteen has over a similar film about troubled youth, Larry Clark’s pretentious crapfest, Kids, is a trio of fine performances. Wood, Reed and Hunter, despite their character’s lack of dimension, are all first-rate. Wood and Reed truly make an impression with their work here, while Hunter turns in some of her finest work in quite some time as Mel. The trio manages to rise above the material to make the film’s only real impact.

Thirteen is worth recommending for its acting, if not much else. Much like its protagonist, it wants to be liked and paid attention to. It wants to shock us and get us to think it’s here to serve not only as provocative entertainment, but also as an important wake up call regarding today’s youth. But if parents need a movie to alert them that the kids may not exactly be all right, then they have even bigger problems to deal with.

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