Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Director's commentary; Making of; Deleted
scenes; Easter Egg trailer.
THE coming of age movie is given a harrowing transformation in
Thirteen, a no-nonsense affair, based on a true story, which refuses
to pull any of its punches.
Writer/director, Catherine Hardwicke, has done a terrific job
of transforming the difficult material into a hard-hitting film
which shocks for all of the right reasons, while also retaining
a distinctly sensitive side, which makes the dramatic weight of
its punches far more affecting.
Evan Rachel Wood delivers a mesmerising star turn as 13-year-old
Tracy, a promising student, whose life is sent into a downward
spiral after she strikes up a friendship with Nikki Reeds
cool bad-girl, Evie.
The destructive relationship which follows places Tracy at odds
with her mother (Holly Hunter), while also thrusting her into
a world of underage sex, drugs, body piercing, and drinking.
Yet as over the top and unlikely as some of the proceedings may
seem, the true horror of watching Thirteen comes from the fact
that most of what occurs is based upon the real-life experiences
of co-star, Reed, making it a film which parents, everywhere,
will watch in stunned silence.
The film sets its stall out from the opening moments, as the
two stoned friends repeatedly punch each other in the face for
laughs, before heading back in time to chronicle the origins of
the friendship and its subsequent repercussions.
Yet while certainly designed to shock, the film also maintains
a human side, as epitomised by Hunters achingly heartfelt
turn as the mother, forced to watch helplessly from the sidelines
as her daughter descends into self-destructive hell, while shunning
those around her.
Without Hunters appealing turn, we may have been left with
a particularly cold affair, made memorable only for its excesses,
yet by paying as much attention to the torment of Tracys
mother, we are given someone worth rooting for, as well as a far
more effective cautionary tale.
For this, plaudits must go to both Hunter, for delivering such
an effective supporting turn, and to Hardwicke, whose honest approach
to the material helps to keep things grounded in reality, while
resisting the temptation to drift into overly sentimental territory.
The director says she felt compelled to make the movie after
witnessing Reeds real-life transformation from sweet teen
to out of control nightmare, first-hand, forcing her to confront
and get through her problems by channelling her efforts into making
As a result, she has expertly exposed the harsh realities of
teen life, in which looks and style mean everything, and hanging
out with the in-crowd is an essential part of a young persons
The documentary-style of the movie also lends it a necessarily
gritty look, so that viewers almost feel as though they are intruding
on a real life situation.
Aside from Hunter and Wood, the cast is uniformly excellent,
with Reed and Six Feet Under star, Jeremy Sisto, also making their
mark in showy support turns.
But it is the unflinchingly adult treatment of its difficult
material which leaves the biggest impression, making this a film
which will rock any parent to their foundation, while also turning
a well-trodden genre on its head.