Do you remember when you were thirteen? I barely do. But I do remember the angst I felt as a teenager and I found that to be the most memorable thing about this film. Thirteen tells the story of Tracy, a decent, thirteen year old girl. She has a good relationship with her divorced mom, it seems, yet the life they live is not necessarily conducive to growing up with an emotional net. The mother seems to have plenty of emotional problems of her own and for most of the film, seems somewhat oblivious to what her daughter is getting into. Holly Hunter plays the mother and Evan Rachel Wood plays the daughter.
The movie was written by Catherine Hardwicke and Nikki Reed, and from what I understand is semi-autobiographical, at least for Reed. Reed herself plays Tracy's friend Evie, a manipulative and bitchy teenager that takes hold in Tracy's life and leads her to the downfall that she seems perfectly willing to accept. The two girls get into plenty of drugs, sex and other mischief, yet I must admit, the scene of all this debauchery is California and that must play some role in the lives these girls are living.
When the movie is over, I felt touched, yet I also felt a certain thankfulness that I had two parents, albeit apart, that kept me in mind as much as they could. I remember getting into drugs. I remember what it was like to not feel for a time. Hell, I probably still do it today. But I have a base idea to always fall back on that a thirteen year old doesn't have. I felt the portrayal of these teens to be far more accurate than the Larry Clark version of them in Kids. Both actresses invest much into these characters, though Wood is far better than her counterpart. The real performance in this movie is Holly Hunter. She really portrays the longing to get along with her daughter, while at the same time showing that she has a hard enough time keeping it together herself. It is an amazing performance, at least enough to earn a well deserved supporting actor Oscar nomination (her first in ten years, I might add.)
I felt the camera work to be a bit choppy for my taste. I get a little tired of this desire to always portray madness with choppy cinematography, but it does add to the sense of spiral that is the life of these girls. Midway through the movie, I stopped noticing it and began focusing on the lives these two must be leading. The supporting roles are done well, enough at least to add to the story without taking away from the central action. I would have liked to see more from the brother, at least in the script, but overall, the idea is brought out. We see Tracy hit rock bottom and we see the struggle mother and daughter are going through. The final moments bring it to some closure, though the very end is a bit odd.
Given what Hollywood produces these days, I have to say that this film was original, if anything. The performances were honest and the production contributed to the plot and emotion. Holly Hunter is reason enough to see this movie, but really, it's a film to take your children to see (those in their teenage years that is) simply to have an honest discussion afterwards. It seems that this movie would make a parent think, "What is my child doing when I am not around?" I think parents ought to trust their children to make the right choices, but only if the parent has taught them what those choices might be. This film serves as a wonderful reminder to teach just that. That is all.