Thirteen (2003) R

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Thirteen received tons of praise when it came out, in large part due to some key wins at film festivals. While the movie certainly presents the grittier side of life as an adolescent girl (something I can’t claim to know anything about), there are some major holes in the story I find very hard to overlook. The main character in the story, Tracy, desperately wants to be part of the in-crowd at the urban high school she attends in the LA area. This rapidly leads to experimentation with illegal substances, promiscuity, and shoplifting.
One scene which stuck out as being completely unrealistic finds Tracy and friend coming home from a night out partying, completely lit up after consuming a variety of chemicals. Mom and her boyfriend (an ex-substance abuser) fail to recognize what’s going on. Now, I can appreciate the potential naivete of a parent with no experience in this area; someone who spent recovery time in a halfway house should be a little more clued-in. Couple this with new best friend Evie coming across as at least a high school senior and you begin to wonder what the parents are thinking.
Overall the writing is outstanding. Dialog is compelling enough to draw you in and make you feel for Tracy. Thirteen is most definitely an unsympathetic look at the challenges faced in adolescence. Admittedly, the story grabs your attention; certainly anyone who ever wanted to fit in can identify with Tracy on some level. Cinematography lends a certain voyeuristic feel to the story, which is part of the appeal for people who want to pretend they are watching a documentary. Maybe I missed the point of the painful irony that mom and boyfriend are forcing the daughter to suffer their fate because they can’t get past their own issues to recognize a cry for help.