They say youth is wasted on the young and never has that been more evident than in the new film, "Thirteen." In a single word, this film is unsettling
. Co-written by fifteen-year-old Nikki Reed and director Catherine Hardwicke, the film is based on Reed's own recent experiences at that tender age, growing up as a wild child in West Los Angeles.
The film focuses on Tracy, played by Evan Rachel Wood, who so badly wants to run with the popular crowd, she's willing to make over her entire being – head to toe, inside and out. From the moment she trades in her stuffed animals for sexual experimentation, Tracy abandons her old self, her old life, seemingly overnight.
She pursues the hottest girl in school, Evie, as a shopping buddy and gets a partner-in-crime, in every way possible. Played to near evil perfection by the very same Ms. Reed, Evie, is pure trouble; smoking, drinking, sex, drug dealing, shoplifting all in one disturbed individual.
Tracy's single mother, Melanie, played by Holly Hunter, is, needless to say, shocked and horrified by the transformation. Though her loving daughter has been replaced by a trashy brat, we can see that Tracey's problems aren't exactly new, as evident by her repeated attempts at suicide, which we all get to suffer through time and time again.
Thanks to a brief appearance by Dad, a clueless character who has a better relationship with his pager, we get a sense of her deep despair. But it's Evie who inspires fear. As she pulls Tracy deeper into her spell of apparent acceptance, she plays upon the sympathies of Melanie, who is famously always taking in boarders at the inconvenience of her family.
Evie turns the charm on Melanie, even infusing some very inappropriate sexual energy toward her, and now everyone's uncomfortable. Meanwhile, Melanie's boyfriend, Brady, played by Jeremy Sisto, is back from rehab once again. He is the only source of comfort for Mel but even he has a limit and is driven away by Tracy's brand new switchblade of a tongue.
The story is, sad to say, fairly common among girls of that age. Because of the varying levels of maturity and physical development, some get there before others and tend to get impatient with those who have not yet traded in Barbie for a real live Ken doll. They are the ones who take you on – ready or not – and make you into a woman merely so you can go out into the world and cause havoc together. Whee! Let's steal lipsticks and break hearts! Whee! Girl power!
Sadly, "Thirteen" demonstrates that at that age, it's all ammo and no aim.
© 2003 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 9/3/03
USA - 2003