January 28, 2012 10 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

My how times have changed. I can vividly remember turning thirteen, just the beginning of something that ends when you turn twenty. It seems a world of difference considering that twenty year olds don’t exactly know the way the world works either. Tongue rings, navel piercings, alcohol, drugs and underage sex were things that didn’t even occur to me. I thought I was being rebellious had I sneaked a peek at a “Playboy” magazine. Which I didn’t. Granted, I grew up in a stable household with loving parents and not the jungle that is Los Angeles. The characters in “Thirteen” are wise to the world in ways that I don’t even think I still am. That’s not necessarily a good thing, either. Being thirteen and being a mother or father of a thirteen year old must be two of the hardest things to do. Has the country grown up in the fifteen years since I was that age? I think not. Rather, kids these days are just plain different. They have computers and access to things that I would have never thought possible (adults have access to the same things, but with increased age comes the maturity to accept and understand these things) and the access to foreign substances is easier to get; or so it would seem. For those who have seen Larry Clark’s “Kids”, “Thirteen” is even a more modern-day equivalent of it, though I found this a little less disturbing.

As a thirteen year old, Nikki Reed (who plays Evie in the movie) helped write the screenplay. Yes, a thirteen year old with a movie writing credit to her name. Evie has “developed” over the Summer and finds herself the center of all the boys (and girls) eye. She wears provocative clothes, smokes, does drugs, steals and has sex with whoever she so pleases. On the other end, we meet Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood); a good student who still hangs out with her next door neighbors and someone her mother doesn’t have to worry about. This all changes when she sees how much attention that Evie and her friends get. Like anything more important to a teenager, the struggle for acceptance is what she wants. She buys some new clothes, hangs out with Evie and learns to steal to be accepted. It’s not long until the two are almost inseparable, though Tracy’s attitude changes at home and at school. Tracy isn’t happy, though, she cuts her wrists not to attempt suicide, but to ease the pain that alcohol and drugs cannot. In her struggle for acceptance, Tracy turns to Evie who is nothing but a bad influence on her. This is only half the story, however. Melanie (Holly Hunter in an Academy Award nominated performance) is a recovering alcoholic. She lives in a house way to big as a result of her marriage. She gives haircuts in her room and runs more of a daycare than a household. Her grip on reality is strong and though she tries her best to be a cool, understanding mother; she fails. Her boyfriend (Jeremy Sisto) is also a recovering addict of sorts, and isn’t liked by Tracy. Through all the sex, drugs, yelling and just about everything else that defies logic, Melanie remains in the dark for the majority of the movie. Evie wants to be adopted by the family and though she tells tales of being molested by her father; we find it hard to believe anything she says.

“Thirteen” may not be an easy movie to watch. I hope that the events in the film are not indicative of what America’s youth is doing, and if it is then I am worried about what these thirteen year olds will be doing ten years from now. Directed by first-timer (but not a newcomer to film) is Catherine Hardwicke, who manages to get the mood right. Hardwicke, obviously not a teenager herself, gets it all right and though the performance by Even Rachel Wood and Nikki Reed might appear to steal the show, it’s Holly Hunter who gives us one of her best, yet understated roles in years. The film doesn’t exactly follow the standard movie formula, there’s a protagonist and an antagonist, but we feel like we’re trespassing on the lives of two teens as opposed to watching to characters in a movie. Tongue studs, belly button rings, drugs, sex and alcohol make up most of what “Thirteen” is trying to show us and it succeeds on many levels. For those who like this sort of thing, it feels more like a documentary and less like a work of fiction. Either way you read it, “Thirteen” is solid-acting and something that will open your eyes – if only for 95 minutes. Recommended.

Video: How does it look?

I was reminded a lot of “Traffic” when I saw how “Thirteen” was presented. Shown in a 1.85:1 anamorphic ratio (a full-frame version is included on the flip side…more on that later), the film uses lots of different types of images to convey its messages. The movie as a whole seems to have a very washed out look and feel to it, perhaps to paint the bleak picture of the family in question. There are scenes at night that have a styled look to them as do the scenes that try to recreate the effect of doing drugs. Even some parts have a bluish tint to them, reflecting the mood of Evie and Tracy. There is grittiness to the image that gives it a naturalistic look; while somewhat of a “trick” shot in other movies, it plays out here. Edge enhancement isn’t a problem and for a movie that’s brand new, I didn’t see a whole lot of trouble with the way this was presented here. On another note, Fox has put the widescreen version on one side of the disc and the full-frame version on the other (with different features, too). I’m not sure what the thinking was here, but I thought we had progressed beyond the “flipper” discs. I guess not.

Audio: How does it sound?

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is acceptable, though the attention is more drawn to the screen than the speakers. Dialogue sounds very natural and you’ll hear every scream and insult that’s thrown around through the whole movie. Surround effects, though present, don’t really kick in that often and maybe I was so engrossed in the movie that I didn’t notice them as much as others. The channel separation seems to work here and though the loud soundtrack serves its purpose, I felt that sometimes it was out of place. Again, for a new to DVD movie, the soundtrack doesn’t have any glaring problems, but it won’t blow you away either.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The supplements are spread across both sides of the disc with the commentary track found on both sides (one for the full-frame version and the other for the widescreen version – they’re the same track, though). Featuring Nikki Reed, Evan Rachel Wood, Brady Corbett and Catherine Hardwicke, the track is full of energy and life. The two writers (Reed and Hardwicke) offer the most information, though we get insights to things that might otherwise be lost in the movie. It’s an informative track and a recommended listen. There’s also a standard “Making Of…” Featurette that is about what we’d expect. Interviews with actors and the crew telling a synopsis of what the movie is about and how it relates, etc. Another great bonus is the ten deleted scenes. These can be viewed with or without the Director’s commentary and all are shown in non-anamorphic widescreen. Lastly, we have a theatrical trailer. “Thirteen” may not be for everyone, but if you’re a fan of the film then this disc is worth picking up.

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