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“Thirteen” brings teens to the screen

Sometimes you go to a theater to see a movie that you’ve never
heard of just because someone takes you by the hand and insists you
see it. You grumble your way through your wallet for the cash and
make sure you drown your depression in Junior Mints. But then, the
movie surprises you, and you walk out thinking simply, “Wow.” I am
that person taking you by the hand and I guarantee you will be the
person breathing, “Wow.”

“Thirteen” looks to be, from the poster, simply another teenage
angst movie, perhaps even dangerously cutesy. But throw this
preconception out a high window, because what you are getting in
“Thirteen” is an artistic adventure into the lives of two young
girls and their dysfunctional families; an adventure that is so
real it hurts sometimes.

We begin the movie in real time, where we are introduced to our
two main characters: Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood) and Evie (Nikki
Reed). Both seventh graders, Tracy still plays with Barbies and
wears cartoon socks and Evie is taking birth control and has the
vocabulary of a sailor. How did these two ever meet and become
friends? A flashback to Tracy’s first day of middle school tells
all, and the movie goes on from there. It continues to build as
Tracy gets reeled in by the seductive Evie. From stealing to drugs
to lies to sex, these two girls spin more and more out of control.
Paralleling events in Tracy’s life is the story of her family, and
particularly her mother, magnificently played by Holly Hunter (“The
Piano” and “O Brother Where Art Thou”). A single mom who never
graduated high school but has done the best that she can for her
children, she finds herself in the same whirl as her daughter.
Where once they talked intimately and treated each other lovingly,
they soon converse only through cussing matches. The lies and
secrets become painful, both physically and emotionally. And in the
end, we get a twist in character that is unexpected and original,
absolutely heart-wrenching and real.

But I know what you’re thinking: “I have heard this story a
million times!” Wayward teenage girls find what they think is
solace in the arms of drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, and pubescent
boys and men. But you have never seen the story quite this way
before. This is not a Hollywood film, as you will be quite glad to
know. The movie actually feels like it could be a student film. Its
use of blurring effects, fade-outs and fade-ins, and the film
quality itself all add to the feeling of a homegrown video, a fact
which pulls you so inside the lives of these characters, it is
almost scary at times. The acting is incredibly powerful,
particularly from the young Evan Rachel Wood and Holly Hunter. In
the end, I believe you will find the 100 minutes of “Thirteen” to
be worth your while. It is a powerful and incredibly poignant film
that is trying to understand and speak about the complexities of