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Welcome to The Fourth Wall, CHIRP's weekly e-conversation on cinema. This week's subject is the 2003 film Thirteen.
This edition is written by CHIRP Radio volunteers Kevin Fullam and Clarence Ewing.
Clarence, we were just talking about the challenge of writing for young folks during our discussion of The Florida Project, Penning lines for the teenage set seen in Thirteen might actually be tougher than constructing dialogue for first-graders? It's relatively easy for an adult to serve as a fly on the wall around tykes, but older kids are a far more guarded group.
Cameron Crowe famously went undercover at a California high school in order to mine the material for his landmark book (and later film), Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but here director Catherine Hardwicke goes one better; her co-screenwriter is actress Nikki Reed (age 14 during filming), who mined her own life for this quasi-autobiographical tale.
And what a life that is -- The Wonder Years, this ain't. Reed's Alpha Female, Evie, serves as the gateway for Tracy Freeland (Evan Rachel Wood), who decides to leave behind her nerdy circle of friends and make a concerted effort to move rapidly up her school's social ladder... though this comes with a hefty price. Before long, the two are ditching school, huffing, slugging each other (and self-harming when they're not), and engaging in sexual behavior far more mature than one would wish for a middle-schooler.
All the while, Tracy's relationship with her mom Melanie (Holly Hunter, in an Academy Award-nominated performance) steadily erodes. Melanie, a divorced, harried hairdresser, is bewildered by the hostile stranger that her daughter's become. As a recovering alcoholic who receives scant support from her ex-husband, Melanie is ill-equipped to keep on top of Tracy's life and reign in her wild behavior.