This gem of a picture, about a year in the life of a thirteen year old girl, played only in a few theatres, but is now available in video and DVD, just in time for Holly Hunter’s Best Supporting Actress nomination. The script was written by thirteen year old Nikki Reed, about her life, and then made by first-time filmmaker Catherine Hardwicke. Reed is also in the film (although playing the bad girl instead of the ingénue), and you cannot take your eyes off of her.
The film is disturbing, and certainly extreme, but nothing is out of the realm of possibility, as a nerdy thirteen year old girl tries to become popular. Somewhat reminiscent of the landmark 1995 film Kids, Thirteen shows us a teenage life that is so far from the Brady Bunch it isn’t funny. The main character Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood) becomes enraptured by cool girl Eva (Nikki Reed), and after Tracy steals to show she’s “in,” the two are soon inseparable. Tracy has one of those same-sex crushes that seems peculiar to teenage girls. Some might find it sexual, but anyone who has ever been around a teenager should recognize this. Holly Hunter plays Tracy’s mom, who’s struggling to keep it together as a recovering alcoholic single mother, and isn’t quite making it.
The filming is surprisingly professional (they used hand-held digital cameras, but it’s as good as anything you’ll see on the IFC), and unfolds much like a thirteen year old girl might tell a story; lots of jumps past boring parts, all feeling and music video; incredibly heart-felt and important, like only things can be to teenage girls. Like I said, the film is disturbing, but absolutely a must-see for anyone who appreciates searing work, great acting, or anyone who has ever had, plans to have, or even knows a thirteen year old girl.
Suspension of Disbelief Index: 2. I hope and pray that most of this doesn’t happen to girls that age (or any age), but unfortunately, I know all too well that much of it does.
Genre Grade: Teen Cautionary Tale: A. This may not have quite the impact of Kids (because of the timing), but is certainly a wake up call and excellently made.
Pantheon Percentile: 84. This isn’t a giant landmark film, but one I will tell people about for years.