0

Experienced production designer Catherine Hardwicke became involved in the problems of the daughter of a friend. To connect with the angry, secretive 13 year-old Nikki Reed they thought of writing a teen comedy together, but then the truth had a sort of power and the result is Thirteen. With its confronting opening sequence of mutually inflicted violence by two young teens you know you're in for a fraught ride. Tracy, Evan Rachel Wood, is entering junior high school in Los Angeles. She's a high achiever, creative. Her single mother Mel, Holly Hunter, works as a hairdresser from home, her upwardly mobile father has moved out of the picture. Tracy wants more than anything to be in the in-group led by Evie, Nikki Reed. With a bravado born of desperation Tracy joins in the shoplifting, the body-piercing, the drugs and the sex. But Evie has her own needs. She wants to belong to Tracy's family and she manipulates the good-hearted Mel who recognises too late the viper she' s taken in to her family. This film is marked by an honesty about 'girl culture' and by simply super performances. Evan Rachel Wood, Holly Hunter (you should have an Oscar for this) - are absolutely splendid. And Catherine Hardwicke's direction goes for the jugular in this tale of teen alienation although somewhere along the line some doubts about the character of Evie permeates the film. Which is a shame because its intentions are so obviously honorable. It's a mesmerising experience seeing the addiction to manipulation, an insightful one seeing the neediness of that manipulation. And you feel there's got to be some major truth here with the screenplay written with the thirteen year old Nikki Reed, who I must add is also quite a performer.Comments by David StrattonThis fine and challenging film is an uncompromising insider's look at the peer pressure which turns teenage girls almost overnight into sex objects. Honest and abrasive, and superbly acted by all concerned, this is a most disturbing film with a message for families all over the western world today.