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Thirteen - Preview



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 October 31.

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 people.

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.

US reaction

USA Today led the accolades, by awarding it four out of four and writing that Thirteen is 'the most powerful of all recent wayward-youth sagas'.

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 movie'.

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 … is spectacular'.

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...

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