Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thirteen (DVD)

Thirteen (DVD) Release date: 2003. Performers: Evan Rachel Wood, Holly Hunter, Nikki Reed, Brady Corbet, Jeremy Sisto. Studio: Working Title Films. Director: Catherine Hardwicke. Screenplay: Catherine Hardwicke, Nikki Reed. ASIN: B00013RC2K.

Plot summary: Tracy Louise Freeland (Evan Rachel Wood) is a thirteen-year-old Los Angeles middle school student who lives with her divorced mother, Melanie (Holly Hunter), and her older brother, Mason (Brady Corbet.) Tracy is an honor student and loves to write poetry, but struggles with her parents’ divorce, her mother’s recovery from alcoholism, and her dislike for Melanie’s drug abusing boyfriend (Jeremy Sisto.) Tracy looks up to popular girl, Evie Zamora (Nikki Reed), but is unable to fit in. After Evie invites Tracy to go shopping on Melrose Avenue, Tracy decides to steal a woman’s wallet in order to show Evie and her popular friends that she is “cool.” Tracy and Evie becoming increasingly close, and Tracy abandons her old friends, poetry, and good grades for drugs, sex, and petty theft. To cope with her anger about her family situation, Tracy begins cutting herself. Melanie tries to support her daughter’s new friendship and Nikki’s increasing presence in their lives, but worries more and more as she sees Tracy spiraling out of control.

Critical evaluation: Thirteen is a harrowing and often difficult to watch film that dives deep into the heart of issues many teens are confronted with. The film contains a very gritty often graphic view of the lives of Tracy, Nikki and Melanie that earn it an R-rating. The likelihood that the movie will appeal to younger teens is high, however, because many will be able to identify with the struggles of the characters. Tracy’s transformation drives the plot of the story. It is clear from the start that Tracy is already struggling with many issues teens face: divorce, parental alcoholism or drug abuse, not fitting in. She seems to overcome these problems, however, through her loving relationship with her mother, friends and writing poetry. Once Tracy befriends the popular but troubled Evie, however, the tone of the film changes completely, bringing the viewer with Tracy on her downward spiral. The character of Evie is as compelling as Tracy, though less is known of her life. Viewers will be drawn to Evie’s charisma as Tracy is, but will quickly learn that she is far from a good friend. Thirteen is an emotionally draining film, but one that will resonate with teens all the same.  

Reader's annotation: Thirteen-year-old Tracy Louise Freeland is an honor student who lives with her divorced mother and older brother. When Tracy begins hanging out with troubled popular girl, Evie, however, the lives of the Freelands take a drastic turn.

About the authors (screenplay): Catherine Hardwicke was born in Cameron, Texas in 1955 and attended film-school at University of California Los Angeles. Hardwicke began her career in the movie industry as a production designer and worked on such films as Tombstone (1993), The Newton Boys (1998), and Vanilla Sky (2001). Hardwicke’s first screenplay and role as director was for Thirteen in 2003, which she co-wrote with then fourteen-year-old actress Nikki Reed. Hardwicke was nominated for many awards for her work on Thirteen, and since then has directed several more films including Lords of Dogtown (2005), The Nativity Story (2006) and Twilight (2008). Nikki Reed, born in Los Angeles in 1988, got her acting and writing debut with Thirteen. She has said that much of the movie is based on her real-life experiences (her parents divorced when she was twelve, and she was emancipated from her mother at age fourteen.) Reed has had many movie roles since Thirteen, appearing in two of Hardwicke’s films, Lords of Dogtown and Twilight. Reed continues to write screenplays, though none have been produced into films since Thirteen. ( and

Genre: Drama

Curriculum ties:

Booktalking ideas:
Drug use
Teenage sexuality
Petty theft

Reading level/Interest Age:
MPAA R (but likely interest 13+)

Challenge issues:
Drug abuse
Rebellious attitudes

Challenge counterpoints:
MPAA rating of R acts as guide for parent.
Recommend parent watch film before children.
Recommend parent watch film with children.
Recommend parent discuss issues presented in film with children.

Reasons for inclusion:
Winner of many awards for direction and screenplay.
Critically acclaimed.  

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