Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
Not an obligatory parable about how kids are not as naïve as we think, 2003’s Thirteen took an unflinching, harsh and disturbing glimpse at the descent of two 13-year-old girls into self-destruction.
First-time director Catherine Hardwicke showed how all of the characters became frazzled and fractured. Clearly, it wasn’t just these young women who falsely felt ready for everything.
Evan Rachel Wood’s Tracy is a child of divorce living with her mother, Melanie (Holly Hunter). When Tracy hooks up with her school’s resident hot / bad / popular girl Evie (Nikki Reed, who co-wrote the screenplay), it pushes her toward an abyss of crime, sex and drugs that becomes a disturbing tailspin.
Tough enough for a single guy with no sisters to watch (let alone parents with daughters), Thirteen generates overwhelming urgency and chaos from its handheld camera style. But there is context, even with parasitic Evie because Thirteen doesn’t make her the villain in all of this (at least not until a third-act stumble).
There are problems in Tracy’s home that may have enabled her all along: Melanie is a recovering alcoholic who can’t say no, and we see her on-off boyfriend Brady (Jeremy Sisto), in a coke-induced meltdown, offer ample reasons why “off” might be a preferable mode.
We care about them, and Tracy, and when Wood resorts to drug-amplified, tweaked-out aggression, it’s downright unnerving. Hers is a tough and truthful performance in a film we accept as challenging but hope against hope is not too truthful.