Retro Review: Thirteen

We all remember the life of a teen. A lot of us were lost and misunderstood. But not like this!

All we wanted was some freedom, the cool kids to like us and to talk constantly about absolutely nothing meaningful. Was it really that rosy or is that just hind-sights perspective?

The film “Thirteen” makes a case against that hind-sight perspective.

Evan Rachel Wood (TV’s “Once & Again”) plays 13-year old Tracy whose life seems to be flying out of control. Tracy has found her way into the cool kids at school but has also adapted some rather disturbing traits.

Tracy has tattoos, piercings, smokes drugs, has sex and routinely commits petty crimes. Tracy’s mother Melanie (Holly Hunter) is at her wits end and is frustrated on how to save her struggling daughter. What has happened to this family? How did Tracy become such a monster?

Thirteen’s “crack-cocaine-infused” realism makes an “After School Special” look like aspirin. That realism is majorly uncomfortable, shocking and will probably blow your mind. Is this really the way all teens are? For god’s sake I hope not.

The powerful, Oscar-worthy performance from new-comer Evan Rachel Wood is awe-inspiring. At just the young age of 16, Wood delivers a performance that would make a lot of actresses two or three times her age jealous. There is so much raw realism that the audience is forced to see how this girl is coming apart at the seams. Wood is blindingly amazing.

In contrast to Wood’s explosive, Tracy, Holly Hunter delivers another strong and poignant performance as her mother. Hunter has never seemed so natural than she is in this role.

In a lot of the performances I have seen from Hunter, I have always been able to draw a line between where her character ends and the actress begins. In this film I couldn’t. This probably could be Hunter’s best work to date.

Many people have dubbed today’s teens as the “lost generation”: a generation without a path, purpose, or passion. The depiction from both Wood and co-star Nikki Reed in this film could solidify that theory.

But probably for the first time on screen we can see why these kids are in fact “lost”. Co-star Reed, who also co-wrote the film with director Catherine Hardwicke, definitely tries to bring that dynamic into the core of the film.

I hope that some learn that this film is a wake-up call to the struggle of today’s youth. It is amazing that a huge part of that revelation came from the voice someone who had been there. This screenplay should have got an Oscar nod.

“Thirteen” in all its realism and breathlessness will be hard to forget if we ever do. This is easily one of the best films of 2003.

4.5 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer.

2 thoughts on “Retro Review: Thirteen

  1. What always amazed me about Evan Rachel Wood in “Thirteen” was how … disturbingly normal she made Tracy’s fall from grace (as it were) seem. Not many actresses could pull off that dramatic a character change without having it seem rushed or artificial. But Wood has the talent to do this and do it beautifully.

    I also agree that Holly Hunter is phenomenal as Tracy’s terrified and overburdened but fiercely loyal and protective mother. Hunter’s long been one of my favorite actresses (she is amazing in TNT’s “Saving Grace”), and she does not disappoint in this part.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s