Home CommentaryStudent Life Thirteen packs powerful cinematic punch

Thirteen packs powerful cinematic punch

by Archives September 24, 2003

Grade B+

There are certain things, I believe, it’s better for parents not to know about their children’s lives. It would only cause them to overreact and all hell would surely break loose.

But Nikki Reed disagrees. She co-wrote her own teenage horror story with the help of director Catherine Hardwicke, and turned it into a cautionary tale for all with Thirteen.

Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood) is your typical thirteen-year-old. Dying to fit in with the cool crowd, she becomes very conscious of the world that surrounds her, a world where clothing accessories are thought to be revelatory of personality, but she lacks any kind of self-awareness.

Which is why she so easily becomes the victim of Evie (Reed), the bad girl who seems to have done a lot of growing over the summer.

What’s interesting here is that even though the film does point to what is too often seen as the source of all evil in the world, that is mass media and, even more so, advertising, they are not the reason for the changes in Tracy’s behaviour.

Before she even comes in contact with Evie, her room is already filled with torn magazine ads with half-naked men. It is not after female models that she fashions herself, but after Evie. Because it is with Evie she is able to truly see the consequences of dressing provocatively, Evie getting the attention of all the guys.

Yes, the movie does sometimes fall on the patronizing side, but due to the subject matter, it’s hard to see how it could be any other way.

Yet at the fault of occasionally stating the obvious, Thirteen also possesses a lot of subtleties that might fly above the head of the members of the audience it depicts.

When the two female protagonists shared a kiss, a few teenage girls sitting behind me couldn’t help but perform a prolonged ‘eww’ for their large group of friends.

In another highly provocative scene, the two young girls are making out with Luke, a lifeguard who could be accused of statutory rape if he is to let them have their way with him.

It is the most titillating scene in the movie and puts the audience in an uncomfortable position, getting excited by that which both they and the filmmakers condemn.

One of the most interesting aspects of the film though is what it says about parenting.

Since the movie was co-scripted by a teenage girl, one cannot help but feel it contains hints about what teenagers really expect from their parents, despite what they might say.

With powerful performances from both young actresses and Holly Hunter as Tracy’s mother, Thirteen is sure to be one of the movies that will engender the most discussion this year. We can only thank Reed for having the guts to remind us what adolescence is really like.

Now playing at the AMC Forum.

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