Preview by: Jack Foley
TEENAGE rebellion is nothing new in terms of subject matter,
but the latest slice of adolescent angst taking America by storm
is doing it for all the right reasons, it seems.
Thirteen, directed by Catherine Hardwicke, and starring Evan
Rachel Wood, Nikki Reed, has been described by Variety as 'a deliberately
unvarnished shock piece designed to give pause to anyone with
a daughter approaching teenhood'.
And it won its first-time director the best director award at
the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year - a surefire indication
that this will be one red hot ticket when it opens in te UK on
The film picks up as Wood's 13-year-old good girl, Tracy, meet
Evie (Nikki Reed, who also co-wrote the script), a popular and
pretty girl, and tries to befriend her, despite the fact that
her 'dorky attire' gets in the way of socializing with the beautiful
Such is her desire to fit in, however, that Tracy eventually
does everything from experimenting with sex and drugs to becoming
involved in petty crimes - a choice which causes tension with
her mother (Holly Hunter) at home.
And scenes which are causing many a raised eyebrown in America
include the girls' seduction of their 25-year-old male neighbour,
the discovery that one of the girls has been cutting gashes into
her arms with scissors, and the opening sequence, in which the
two girls smash each other about the face until they are bleeding,
while laughing hysterically and being high on aerosols.
The film is made all the more believable and exceptional by the
fact that much of it is autobiographical, as co-writer, Reed,
based it on her own experiences as a 13-year-old. She is now 15.
Reed recently told The Sunday Times, for example, that, as she
was writing it, 'all this stuff began pouring out, about all the
unexplained stuff that happens - how hard I kicked away from my
mom, how much looks matter, how images are shoved down your throat,
how hard it gets to tell real love from fake love - and we both
began to realise there was something really important going on
in this story'.
It was also about people that Reed really knew, girls she had
seen 'fallen into some kind of black hole'.
Filming took place over the course of 26 days and was part-financed
by British producer, Working Title, who were lured by the presence
of Holly Hunter. It is distributed by Fox Searchlight.
Yet as difficult as the subject matter may seem, and as hard
as it was to finance, at times, the resulting picture looks set
to be one of the most talked about debuts of the year - having
already gone down a storm with critics in America.
USA Today led the accolades, by awarding it four out of
four and writing that Thirteen is 'the most powerful of all recent
While TV Guide found it 'one of the most honest and harrowing
looks at female adolescence ever to reach the screen'.
Rolling Stone, meanwhile, warned viewers to 'brace yourself
for Thirteen - it'll cause a commotion'. It added that 'every
parent's nightmare about how girls go wrong is packed into this
Village Voice declared that it is 'less a damozel- in-distress
fetish flick than a bird-flipping plunge into coded girl-cult
communication', while the New York Observer noted that
'everyone in it needs a blood transfusion, and before it's over,
so will you'.
The New York Times, meanwhile, predicted that 'the panic
in the eyes of Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood)
will stay with
you for a very long time', while the New York Post, which
awarded it three and a half out of four, stated that 'Hunter and
Reed are excellent, but it's the scarily talented 15-year-old
Wood whose scorching, star-making performance drives Thirteen'.
Reel Views stated that this is 'a smart movie that does
not simplify or candy-coat the rigors of the teenage years'.
And the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that 'Wood is superb
at delineating Tracy's slide into desperate incoherence, but equally
impressive is Reed, who has to conceal her writer's intelligence
in playing a character who's entirely instinctive and unreflective'.
The praise was continued by E! Online, which awarded it
an A, and proclaimed that Evan Rachel Wood
While Hollywood Reporter felt that it is 'engaging', and
the Washington Post stated that 'it feels like real life
unfolding before your eyes'.
Entertainment Weekly, meanwhile, noted that, 'with an
authenticity that is tender and merciless, the movie shows you
what it looks like when youth rebellion becomes a form of fascism'.
And the Chicago Sun-Times felt that it 'sets a technical
problem that seems insoluble, and meets it brilliantly, finding
convincing performances from its teenage stars. showing a parent
who is clueless but not uncaring, and a world outside that bedroom
window that has big bad wolves'.
Rounding off this overview are three views from the following...
The Boston Globe wrote that described it as 'a worst-case
scenario that preys on parental fears of the monster movie lurking
within every teenage rebellion, and it's fed by memories of what
we got away with when we were young'.
CNN wrote that it is 'a provocative peek into the raw
world of modern urban adolescence - but it's a peek with lots
of thought, and some fine filmmaking, behind it'.
But the New York Daily News probably puts it best, noting
that Thirteen is 'one of the most honest and harrowing depictions
of female adolescence ever put to film'.
We can only wait...