Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Review: Performances Carry "Thirteen"

TRASH IN MY EYE NO. 174 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Thirteen (2003)
Running time – 100 minutes (1 hour, 40 minutes)
MPAA – R for drug use, self destructive violence, language and sexuality – all involving young teens
DIRECTOR: Catherine Hardwicke
WRITERS: Nikki Reed and Catherine Hardwicke
PRODUCERS: Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Michael London
EDITOR: Nancy Richardson
Academy Award nominee


Starring: Holly Hunter, Evan Rachel Wood, Nikki Reed, Jeremy Sisto, Brady Corbet, and Deborah Kara Unger

Thirteen is the story of Melanie Freeland (Evan Rachel Wood), a 13 year-old girl living with her single mother, Tracy Louise Freeland (Holly Hunter), and her brother, Mason (Brady Corbet). Melanie is an A-student but the pressures of being an L.A. teen surround her and eventually break her down via promiscuous bad girl Evie Zamora (Nikki Reed). Before long Melanie is into sex and drugs, and she becomes so materialistic that she begins to steal people’s purses and such for money. Things rapidly go from bad to worse when Evie invites herself to live with the Freelands, and Melanie falls headlong into reckless teenage abandon and rebellion. When will she hit bottom?

Thirteen is a nice drama about out of control and depressed teens, like Larry Clark’s Kids, but much less graphic and shocking. Still, the film’s portrayal of the hedonistic lives of the youngest teenagers is unsettling. Catherine Hardwicke does a good job keeping her film from being an “ABC After School Special” or some kind of movie of the week melodrama. The script by cast member Nikki Reed (who based the screenplay upon her actual experiences) and Hardwicke focuses more on delineating teenage rebellious atrocities, dangerous youth lifestyles, and other reckless behavior than on plot.

Thus, it’s the performances that really carry this film. Holly Hunter earned an Oscar® nomination for “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” for her performance as the mom Tracy, who does a remarkable job holding things together considering the state of her life. Ms. Hunter does have a habit of wearing her characters’ angst on her sleeve, but here, her Tracy is authentic, and the character centers everyone else’s dysfunctions into a workable system.

Evan Rachel Wood smolders as Melanie, but she clearly isn’t ready to show too much beneath the surface, though she has her gallant moments. It’s the same case with Nikki Reed; her face tells that there is so much more beneath the pouting, the sad eyes, the crassness and the trickery, but she’s not ready to go where the big girl actresses go when they create unforgettable performances.

7 of 10

2004 Academy Awards: “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” (Holly Hunter)

2004 BAFTA Awards: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role” (Holly Hunter)

2004 Golden Globes: 2 nominations: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Evan Rachel Wood) and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Holly Hunter)


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