Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke
Written by:Catherine Hardwicke, Nikki Reed
Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Holly Hunter, Nikki Reed, Vanessa Anne Hudgens, Brady Corbet
Released: March 11, 2004
Grade: A-

For young teenagers, good looks and popularity are more important than ever.  Single mother Melanie (Hunter) is about to learn how much difficulty this can create.  As a recovering alcoholic, Melanie has been through her own dramas of late.  She has recently separated from her husband and pays the bills with a part-time job as a hairdresser.  It’s a battle but she’s trying hard to keep her children happy and her own life on track.

Her daughter, Tracy (Wood), has reached the delicate age of “thirteen” and is about to consumed by a world of appearances.  Tracy has natural good looks and gets great grades at school and has natural good looks but wants something more.  She wants attention and popularity.

The “coolest” girl in school is Evie (Reed) and Tracy slowly weaves her way into the friendship group.  Evie however is a manipulator and soon has Tracy at her ultimate disposal.  Tracy is shoplifting, smoking, and drinking.  She sneaks out at night to go partying and now has both a nipple and tongue ring.  Tracy and Evie have become inseparable.

At first, Melanie was approving of her daughter’s new friend but now she realises trouble in brewing.  Tracy won’t listen to her mother’s warnings and is using her disapproval for her mother’s new boyfriend as an excuse to be rebellious.  The relationship between mother and daughter is fast deteriorating and Melanie knows she must act fast or risk losing touch with her daughter forever.

During the opening half hour, I thought Thirteen was going to be another one of those preachy tales where the message dominates the story.  In hindsight, I know I am mistaken and can praise this flick as a gritty, realistic portrayal of how difficult life can be at a teenager.  The screenplay itself has been written by director Catherine Hardwicke and 16-year-old Nikki Reed (who stars as Evie).  Reed drew on her own experiences to craft the script and many of the events you see on screen mirror her own life story.  Knowing this only makes me appreciate her performance even more.  It can’t have been easy playing the “bad girl” but he comes through with a blistering performance.

Holly Hunter earned an Oscar nomination for her role and Evan Rachel Wood (as Tracy) can consider herself unlucky not to do so having already received a Golden Globe nomination.  Such raptures show I’m not alone in my praise for Thirteen and its wonderful performances.  There’s a lasting impression to be taken from this movie and those who relate to the story will take away even more.