Thirteen (2003)
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Review Date: September 15, 2003
Director: Catherine Hardwick
Writer: Catherine Hardwick, Nikkie Reed
Producers: Michael London, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte
Evan Rachel Wood
Nikkie Reed
Holly Hunter
The story of a 13-year old nerdie high shool girl who wants to fit in with the cool kids and decides to dress like a tramp, steal, take drugs, drink and partake in casual sexual relations in order to do so. Wow, where do I sign up?!? Seriously though, needless to say, this smart girl's changes ultimately affect the dynamic in her household, in which she lives with her single mom, brother and her mom's troubled boyfriend. When her trampie friend also "moves in" for a while, things only get more chaotic.
Having heard all of the "shock" hype and considering the film to be a familiar cousin of Larry Clark's KIDS, a movie which was also written by an actual "kid" from the streets (this one was co-written by a 13-year old girl, who also co-stars in the movie), I was engaged throughout most of this film, but wasn't really shocked or offended by much of what I saw, particularly since most anyone who watches MTV for more than 3 minutes a day should know about most of this stuff already. In fact, other than the fact that this film obviously brought out the big brother in me (see my non-movie related RANT below), I really liked it overall with its "documentary feel" really giving you a true sense of authenticity and chaos in which some of these kids wade around from day to day. I'm not sure anyone who is not familiar with black culture would see anything past the fact that, according to the film, black guys just like to rap and nail white girls though, but I guess they just didn't have time to "develop" those characters, right? If the adults in this film were developed, on the other hand, I found them all to be as doubly-reprehensible as the girls, who in their weakest defense, could always argue that they simply didn't know any better. The adults, on the other hand...well. The acting is also top-notch across the board, with Evan Rachel Wood's performance standing out the most in my eyes. Some very tough scenes in here, but she pulls them all off. The brother, portrayed by Brady Corbet, was also well played, and despite having a small role, really gave you a sense of how any brother would react when seeing his sister transform before his very eyes. Jeremy Sisto was also great as "the boyfriend" and Kip Pardue's adventure with the girls was likely his only source of compensation for doing this film...and let me tell you, if so, it was damn well worth it! And yes, to all you perverts out there, the two just-teens do actually make out in the film, so if that's where you get your shits and giggles...have a blast!

I think this is an important movie for all parents to see, in case there are actually others out there who are as blind, or just plain na´ve and ignorant, as the adults in this film. I don't think this is altogether the best movie to show kids, since admittedly, it does "jack up" their anarchic lifestyle to a certain extent (I'll be damned if I didn't want to be a 13-year old girl, early on in the film), but seeing as it's rated R, it wasn't made for them anyway. Unlike KIDS, which I thought was one of the best anti-AIDS movies that I've ever seen, this film didn't have as much of a message (especially in terms of sex, which was surprisingly not dealt with in any great detail) or poignant ending though. One of its final scenes was obviously meant to be heart-breaking, but the only words that came out of my mouth by that point were: "about friggin' time!" So what's my final verdict? Well, other than the fact that it reiterated, in my mind, how important PARENTS are in the process of raising their own kids (who'd have thunk?), it presented a well-paced introduction into the innerworkings of a couple of 13-year old girls in this day and age, their pressures, desires and temptations (although greatly skewed to "Hollywood kids" and even more specifically, kids from dysfunctional homes). The film's camerawork was also extremely effective, with many shaky cams and wild cuts giving a better sense of the out-of-control nature of their lives (although this might aggravate some as well). It did get a little redundant after a while (okay, we get it...the kids are crazy and the parent's a lush), but in the end, its screenplay and characters were richer than any dimension found on even the tip of most fingernails of any two-bit "Hollywood teen movie", most of which concentrate more on selling soundtracks, than actually conveying a true sense of reality and truth. Being as this film came from a real place (semi-based on Reed's own life experiences), it should also give way to real discussions afterwards.

* RANT BEGINS * Yes, it's disgusting, it's messed up, it sucks that 13-year old girls are growing up so fast and have so much to deal with, but the basic message behind this film and the actual problem in society isn't an impossible one to solve, at least...if parents actually TRY to make a difference in their kids' lives!! In fact, for me, this film wasn't even so much about the two thirteen year-old girls' attitudes but the mother's remarkably blind and selfish manner in which she let "everything go". What the hell is wrong with these people? (and I'm not talking about the kids!) The last time I checked, if you bring a child into this world, they must quickly become the most important thing in your life no matter what and you have a responsibility to that kid and that responsibility doesn't end with paying the bills. It begins and ends with you paying attention to your child, their lives, their attitudes, their clothes, their thoughts, their mood swings, their everything! Stop acting like irresponsible children yourselves, stop bringing morons home to mess your kids up even more and get your shite together! Yes, I'm pissed because this film didn't give me any more insight into the world of our youth culture as it is today, but to the parents of those kids, those so-called "adults" who think it's cooler to be a "friend" to your daughter, than to teach them about the actual message that they might be sending out to boys when they wear their g-strings halfway up their back! Parents, for the love of God and all that is pure in this to your kids, listen to what they are saying, don't allow the phony slutty images of "role models" like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera to teach your kids what is considered "hip" these days. Those "artists" know that they're only projecting an "image" to their audiences, as opposed to their apparent true natures, but how many youngsters can actually appreciate that subtle difference? (I know I can't!) Be a parent, for God's sakes. * END OF RANT *
(c) 2016 Berge Garabedian
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