THIRTEEN (2003) – An unlucky number, indeed


Thirteen opens with a girl facing the camera, begging some unseen friend to wallop her. By movie’s end, you’ll be more than happy to grant her wish.

Every post-baby-boomer generation thinks they’ve cornered the market on teen-age angst. Much has been made of Thirteen‘s screenplay having been written by a teenager (Nikki Reed, who also smugly co-stars). But before she wrote her script, Reed would have been well-advised to watch River’s Edge (1986), which covered the same cliched territory.

Evan Rachel Wood stars as Tracy, a middle-schooler who abandons all self-worth to hang out with a cheap popular girl (Reed) and then can’t figure out why she gets into so much trouble.

Melanie, Tracy’s clueless mom, is played by Holly Hunter — who exec-produced the movie, and what a vanity production! Hunter deglamorizes herself right down to her varicose veins, all the better to play the sacrificial mother. (She also has a room-trashing scene worthy of Citizen Kane.) Melanie styles hair for a semi-living, but after a few dozen close-ups of Hunter’s dirty fingernails, you forget the movie’s dark subtext and instead think, “Eew! Cooties!”

We’re meant to cluck at the inevitability of Tracy’s downfall, but all I could think was that this family needs some sane advice. Based on the movie’s evidence (and glaring plot holes), the doctor is in.

Tracy, if you abandon your old friends to join the “in” crowd, don’t be surprised when the old friends forget to tell you that your science project is due. Don’t get mad about your mom’s here-and-gone boyfriend when your new best friend abandons you every chance she gets. And are you really going to wear that to the mall??

Melanie, earnest mothers do not begin by letting their kid’s slutty new friend address them as “Mom.” Get more involved in your daughter’s life than just telling her that the poem she wrote is “heavy.” And for heaven’s sake, wash your hands after every styling!

There’s a famous series of British documentaries that visits the same group of once-young kids every seven years. It would have been interesting to see Nikki Reed’s screenplay for Twenty-Six, the sequel in which she realizes what a pretentious teenager she was.

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