Thirteen (2003)
Main cast: Holly Hunter (Tracy Freeland), Evan Rachel Wood (Tracy Louise Freeland), Nikki Reed (Evie Zamora), Jeremy Sisto (Brady), Brady Corbet (Mason Freeland), Deborah Kara Unger (Brooke), and Kip Pardue (Luke)
Director: Catherine Hardwicke

Maybe I'm a skeptical person. In Malaysia, it is a favorite pasttime of ministers to bash the youth of the country and blame them for everything that's wrong in the country. Crime rate is high? It's the teenagers' fault - their (understandable) need to hang out at leisure spots expose them to sin, so let's close down all these leisure spots! The World Wide Web is evil, so teenagers must not be allowed to spend more time online than necessary! In the end, the government, so concerned that teenagers are not spending enough time at being productive and hence supposedly indulging in crime sprees everywhere, end up closing nightspots, banning concerts, and driving the country's youth to feel oppressed, unfairly subjugated, and suppressed. And the government then wonders why so many youths support the opposition parties.

Thirteen, a movie more well-known for having the teenaged star Nikki Reed as a cowriter on the script along with Catherine Hardwicke, reminds me of one of these ministers' shrill tracts against the youth of today. It tells the story of how Evie Zamora gets under the skin of straight A student Tracy Freeland and influence Tracy to turn wild. Along the way, the movie shows the sordid downward spiral of Tracy using tricks like grainy camerawork (oh no, bad moments ahead!).

The best thing about this movie is the acting by the teenaged cast as well as by Holly Hunter and Deborah Kara Unger. There is an honesty in their acting that engages my raw emotions, which is quite paradoxical considering how there is nothing raw and honest about the script. This movie wants to be Very Important. It wants to Make Me Realize the Low Depths that teenagers today are sinking into. Thirteen-year old girls having sex, taking drugs, OH MY GOD, this movie screams at me, and it insists that We Must Do Something.

But what? Thirteen is preachy and sanctimonious, but it offers no solutions. It doesn't even offer any suggestions as to where I should start. All it offers is a detailed depiction of the victimization of a thirteen-year old girl. I'm not denying that teenagers aren't having it hard these days, but at the same time, I don't need Thirteen to know that. This movie is just a tale of some dramatically villainous teenaged girl destroying a nice suburban WASPy young girl - the attack of the trailer trash scumbags, if you will - masquerading as some important social statement. But with nothing to say and nothing to offer other than scenes of thirteen-year-old girls getting high and having sex for all the wrong reasons, this movie is as exploitative as any other kinds of evil in the world today that are exploiting those poor teenaged girls it claims to emphatize with.

Rating: 60

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