Every generation has one defining film that really speaks to them and acknowledges what it’s like to be a teenager in their times.
It’s often not as sweet as other fluffy, light-hearted teen comedies. For example. John Hughes, the director of such 80’s teen classics as “Sixteen Candles” and “Weird Science,” reached his creative peak with the slightly edgier film “The Breakfast Club” that explored the inner workings of high school cliques like no other film before.
My generation has found its film in the small independent release “Thirteen,” the directorial debut of Catherine Hardwicke. Like Breakfast Club, the film is rated R, which in itself proves that teenage life in America isn’t PG-13, the typical rating for teen comedies and dramas today.
The back-story of “Thirteen” is interesting in itself. The film was co-written by 13-year-olds who appear in the film, such as Nikki Reed, and it’s also compelling that the actors in the film are actually young — something odd by Hollywood standards, where most teens in movies are played by young-looking 20-year-olds.
The story line of the movie is basic: good girl wants to be in popular clique. Good girl changes herself to be in that clique. Good girl has horrible downward spiral that ends in a cataclysmic ending.
In this story, the good girl, Tracy (Once and Again star Evan Rachel Wood), begins her first day of seventh grade at her local middle school somewhere in California. From day one, she begins to realize that things are different when the popular and bad-girl Evie (Niki Reed) laughs at her little girl sense of fashion.
After a quick makeover with the help of her mom (Holly Hunter), Tracy goes back to school with a slightly sluttier look that brings Evie’s attention and approval.
From there, the inevitable happens.
Tracy goes from a virginal, good girl to a brat who deserves a good spanking by her more-than-oblivious mother, who still thinks of her as the innocent she portrayed at the beginning of the film.
This spiral downwards continues until Tracy hits rock bottom in a fantastic and original ending that only a 13-year-old could imagine.
“Thirteen” is stunning and beautiful in its cinematography and its trueness to actual American teenagers’ lives.
I strongly recommend it for anyone who has the parents who will let them see it.
Zach Brokenrope is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.