Thirteen (2003)

Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Writer: Catherine Hardwicke, Nikki Reed
Cast: Nikki Reed, Evan Rachel Wood, Holly Hunter, Brady Corbet, Sarah Clarke, Vanessa Hudgens, Jeremy Sisto, Deborah Kara Unger
Seen on: 31.1.2021

Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood) just started 7th grade and is desperate to fit in. She sets her sight on Evie (Nikki Reed), widely known as the prettiest girl in school. Evie is a wild child who basks in Tracy’s attention and also takes to Tracy’s mother Mel (Holly Hunter). The two girls become inseparable, Tracy quickly discovering drugs and sex through Evie and both egging each other on, as things spiral out of control.

Thirteen is an excellent debut feature for both Hardwicke and Reed that feels like a debut in every frame – but in the best sense, filled with an energy and wildness that mirrors the central characters.

The film poster showing Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood) and Evie (Nikki Reed) sticking out their tongues to show off their tongue piercings.

It is impressive that Reed wrote the screenplay when she was 13 or 14 years old herself (with Hardwicke editing and adding the finishing touches). I mean, that she’d stick with it in the first place is quite impressive, and that the screenplay actually turned out to be good is even more outstanding.

The film certainly has a clear eye for character dynamics – not just between Tracy and Evie (where the dynamic is well-known and well executed), but also between Mel and the girls. Seeing those three liking, but also struggling with each other was beautiful. I liked that the film focuses almost entirely on its female characters. The only man who gets a foot half-way in the door is Brady (Jeremy Sisto), everybody else is a prop in the girls’/women’s story. Since we usually get films that are exactly the other way round, I applaud this narrative choice.

Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood) and Evie (Nikki Reed) dancing in the kitchen, showing off their outfits.

Especially since the performances of Wood, Reed and Hunter are pitch-perfect. They complement and clash in just the right ways. It’s hard to believe that this is the first film that Hardwicke directed because the way the cast comes to shine here speaks to a deft directing hand.

But in another way, you feel that this is a debut feature – in the very best sense. You feel the excitement and the energy of that first time all the time – and it just fits its narrative perfectly. It’s a really good mix, and just a really good film.

Mel (Holly Hunter) leaning in to kiss her daughter Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood) who is lying on her bed. Next to them on the bed sits Evie (Nikki Reed), holding a pair of jeans.

Summarizing: Fantastic.

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