Review by Michael Jacobson
Holly Hunter, Evan Rachel Wood, Nikki Reed, Jeremy Sisto, Brady Corbet,
Debra Kara Unger
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1, Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 99 Minutes
Release Date: January 27, 2004
is the best day of my life…”
was a pretty good year for me, personally.
I don’t think I’d want to have to relive it today, though.
It’s got to be hell to be a kid that young, having your hormones going
haywire and being bombarded by more stimuli than your maturing brain can even
process. It’s no wonder some self
survive, and even flourish, however. Nikki
Reed did both, channeling her own experiences into a screenplay.
Thirteen is a rapidly unraveling downward spiral with a sense of
redemption only coming from knowing that the story is the end product of a young
girl who made it through.
the story of Tracy (Wood), a thirteen year old girl starting junior high and
learning the cold hard truth of what it’s like to be shunned and outcast.
She does well in school, but doesn’t have much grounding in her home
life. Her mother Melanie (Hunter)
is a recovering alcoholic trying to raise Tracy and her brother Mason (Corbet),
but her life is consumed by her meetings, her in-home job as a hair stylist, and
the barrage of people coming in and out of her door, including her ex-cokehead
boyfriend Brady (Sisto).
Evie (Reed), a girl who’s obviously grown up too fast but not grown up enough.
She’s the popular bad girl. Tracy
wants to impress her so badly that she steals a wallet so they can shop
together. Evie is indeed impressed,
and soon all but moves in with Tracy, becoming a nightmarish influence on her
doesn’t take long for Tracy to start losing control…after the stealing comes
the provocative dressing and the body piercings, followed by the drugs, the
sexuality, and the loss of self. Her
mom watches with concern but with a certain amount of helplessness.
Evie has a story and excuse for everything, and it’s hard for us to
know how much is true and how much is cover.
is a dark film, but one that will most affect people who haven’t seen Larry
Clark’s movie Kids. That
was an unbelievably bleak documentary-like offering that wallowed in horrors
unspeakable while observing them with a chillingly non-judgmental eye.
That was a picture that left me with my hands shaking and a knot in my
like an R rated after school special, in that it exists to send a message and
doesn’t conceal the soap box it stands on.
It doesn’t sugar coat anything, but it doesn’t pretend not to take
sides. The R rating is deserved,
but also kind of a shame, because this picture could be a cold splash of water
in the face of many a troubled young teen.
cast is extraordinary, and the main reason this film is effective.
Holly Hunter earned an Oscar nomination for her heartfelt role as the
mother, but the two young stars are who really shine and bring the scenarios to
vivid life. Evan Rachel Wood is a
stunning young actress who makes the rapid transition in her character a
believable one. And Nikki Reed,
acting out the very influences that affected her young life and worked their way
into her screenplay, is vivacious and yet reserved enough to make us contemplate
the nature of negativity and how it can mold and disrupt the fabric of our
time director Catherine Hardwicke, who also helped Miss Reed finalize the
script, brings a raw, kinetic approach to the film with lots of hand held camera
work for a style that seems both free and controlled at the same time.
There is chaos here, but not mayhem.
She captures a sense of youthful energy and restlessness with super-16
stock, and uses the motion of the camera to help comment on the nature of the
Thirteen sounds out a dire warning, and it opens up our eyes and ears to receive it because it was born out of real experience. It’s not exactly a pleasant film, by any means, but it is a significant one, and deserves to be seen far and wide.
TRIVIA: Because Misses Wood and Reed were underage, the film crew were
limited to 9 1/2 hour shooting days.
a low budget and 16 mm film stock, I have to say this is an impressive looking
transfer to DVD. The color tones
are mostly muted, which gives the picture a deliberately grayer look to go with
the feel. Images are sharp and
clear throughout, and grain is surprisingly minimal considering the stock.
You have a choice of anamorphic widescreen or full frame transfers.
film is mostly dialogue oriented with some accents of music, but the soundtrack
comes across well, with good balance and fair dynamic range.
Spoken words are clear throughout. Rear
stage use is minimal, but not really required given the nature of the movie, and
the .1 channel mostly kicks in only for the songs.
main complaint is that the features are spread over both sides of the
disc…just when you thought your days of flipping were over. Both versions contain the commentary track, which features
Catherine Hardwicke, Evan Rachel Wood, Nikki Reed and Brady Corbet.
It’s a decent listen, with some good behind the scenes gossip and info.
There is also a short production featurette, ten deleted scenes with
optional commentary, and a trailer.