Thirteen (2003 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byCatherine Hardwicke
Written byCatherine Hardwicke
Nikki Reed
Produced byJeff Levy-Hinte
Michael London
CinematographyElliot Davis
Edited byNancy Richardson
Music byMark Mothersbaugh
Distributed byFox Searchlight Pictures (United States)
Universal Pictures (United Kingdom, via United International Pictures)
Release dates
  • January 17, 2003 (2003-01-17) (Sundance)
  • August 20, 2003 (2003-08-20) (New York City)
  • August 22, 2003 (2003-08-22) (Los Angeles)
Running time
100 minutes
CountriesUnited States
United Kingdom
Budget$2 million[2]
Box office$10.1 million[2]

Thirteen is a 2003 drama film directed by Catherine Hardwicke, written by Hardwicke and Nikki Reed, and starring Holly Hunter, Evan Rachel Wood and Nikki Reed with Jeremy Sisto, Brady Corbet, Deborah Kara Unger, Kip Pardue, Sarah Clarke, D. W. Moffett, Vanessa Hudgens (in her film acting debut) and Jenicka Carey in supporting roles. Loosely based on Reed's early life, the film's plot follows Tracy, a seventh grade student in Los Angeles who begins dabbling in substance abuse, sex and crime after being befriended by a troubled classmate.

The screenplay for Thirteen was written over a period of six days by Hardwicke and the then-14-year-old Reed; Hardwicke, a former production designer, marking her directorial debut, independently raised funds herself for the production. Filming took place on location in Los Angeles in 2002, largely shot with hand-held cameras.

Upon the film's debut at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2003, Hardwicke won the Sundance Directing (Drama) for the film. Fox Searchlight Pictures subsequently acquired Thirteen for distribution, giving the film a limited release in the United States beginning on August 20, 2003; the release would expand in September 2003 and the film went on to gross a total of $4.6 million at the U.S. box office.

Though it received numerous favorable reviews from critics, Thirteen generated some controversy for its depiction of youth drug use (including inhalants, marijuana, LSD and alcohol), underage sexual behavior, and self-harm.[3] The film earned Hunter an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress and Golden Globe nominations for Hunter and Wood for Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress in a Drama, respectively.


13-year-old Tracy Freeland begins the seventh grade as a smart, mild-mannered honors student at a middle school in Los Angeles. Her divorced mother Melanie is a recovering alcoholic who struggles to support Tracy and her older brother Mason by working as a hairdresser. Melanie is too busy and occupied with her fellow ex-addict boyfriend Brady to notice Tracy's increasing depression.

On the first day of school, Tracy encounters Evie Zamora, the most popular girl in Tracy's school. After being teased by Evie's crew for her "Cabbage Patch" clothes, Tracy is mortified and decides to shed her "little girl" image. At a store owned by Melanie's friend, Tracy happily finds trendier clothes as Melanie offers a few dollars in change as payment.

Tracy wears one of her new outfits to school and catches Evie's attention. Evie invites Tracy to go shopping on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood, but gives her a fake phone number to prank her. Nevertheless, Tracy determinedly shows up on Melrose Avenue and meets with Evie and her friend Astrid. Tracy is uncomfortable with the two shoplifting and excuses herself to sit outside the store on a bench. When a distracted rich woman sits next to Tracy, Tracy takes the chance to steal the lady's wallet, which impresses Evie and Astrid. The three go on a shopping spree with the stolen money and Tracy and Evie quickly become friends.

Evie introduces Tracy to her world of sex, drugs, and crime, much to Tracy's delight, who is intrigued by this world. Evie tells Melanie that Brooke, her older cousin and guardian, is out of town for two weeks, and Melanie agrees to let her stay at her home with Tracy. While staying there, Evie discovers that Tracy regularly cuts herself to cope with stress. Although Melanie sees a change in Tracy's behavior and worries about the extent of Evie's influence, she cannot find a way to intervene. Melanie attempts to send Evie home, but reluctantly lets her stay after Evie claims her guardian's boyfriend is physically abusive. As Tracy and Evie become closer, Tracy increasingly shuts Melanie out of her life.

Evie and Tracy move on to ever more dangerous activity, each egging the other on. The pair attempt to seduce Tracy's neighbor Luke, a talented lifeguard, and ditch a family movie night to get high on the streets in Hollywood. Mason is shocked when he bumps into Tracy wearing sexualized clothing, including thong underwear, but Tracy dismisses his concerns. Later on, the girls take turns inhaling from a can of gas duster for electronics and become so intoxicated that they start hitting and punching each other.

Melanie attempts to break the girls' friendship by sending Tracy to live with her father, a preoccupied businessman, but he refuses claiming to be too busy. After Evie's stay extends over two weeks, Melanie unsuccessfully attempts to contact Brooke, and then visits Brooke's home with Evie and Tracy. They find that Brooke was hiding because of a botched plastic surgery. Evie asks Melanie to formally adopt her but Melanie refuses. Tracy meekly supports her mother's decision. Angry and hurt, a tearful Evie storms off. Later at school, Evie turns her friends against Tracy, and Tracy slowly begins to realize the negative effects of her lifestyle when she is told that she will have to repeat the seventh grade.

While walking home from school, Brady offers Tracy a ride and takes her home, where Melanie, Evie, and Brooke are sitting quietly in the living room waiting for her. Brooke, having been convinced by Evie that it was Tracy who was the bad influence, confronts Tracy about her drug use and stealing. Outraged, Tracy insists that Evie was the instigator, but the skeptical Brooke refuses to listen and announces that she is moving Evie to Ojai to keep her away from Tracy. When Melanie defends Tracy's innocence, Brooke pulls Tracy's sleeve up to show her self-harm scars. After a screaming match, Brooke and Evie leave. Tracy weeps in Melanie's arms and attempts to fight against her mother's embrace. She tearfully pleads with Melanie to let go, but Melanie persists and the two fall asleep together on Tracy's bed. The last scene shows a dream sequence of Tracy spinning alone and screaming on a park merry-go-round during the daytime.




Director Catherine Hardwicke, who had worked prior as a film production designer,[4] has called Nikki Reed a "surrogate daughter", having known her since she was five years old.[5] Hardwicke had been in a long-term relationship with Reed's father for a time.[6] The two began the screenplay as a comedy project which would be shot to video at minimal cost.[6] The screenplay was written over a period of six days in January 2002,[6] and quickly shifted into a tale of early teen angst and self-destruction in Los Angeles, with Tracy's character drawn from Reed's own recent experiences as an early teen.[6] Reed said she specifically was inspired by experiencing her friends' arrests for dealing methamphetamine when she was thirteen years old.[7]

Reed later stated in 2012 that she regrets the way she portrayed her family in the autobiographical film, saying, "I wrote this movie about them and their flaws and imperfections and what it was like growing up. It was from one kid's perspective and not a well rounded one. You get older and it's like, how dare I portray my father as being a totally vacant careless schmuck?"[8]

After completing the script, Hardwicke pitched the idea to various producers she knew, but said that most were "terrified" of the project because of the subject matter.[6] “All the characters are women, and it was going to be rated R and about a teenager. That does not check the boxes for any studio,” Hardwicke said of the difficulty of finding financiers for the film.[9]


Hardwicke didn't think it would be fitting for Reed to play Tracy and auditioned hundreds of girls for the part. After becoming aware of Evan Rachel Wood, Hardwicke came to believe she could make the film only with Wood in the role of Tracy and only that year, with Wood at that age.[6]

Hardwicke has said Holly Hunter's agreement to play the role of Tracy's mother Melanie was a key boost to bringing the production together; she met with Hunter in New York City to discuss the film, after which Hunter agreed to take the part.[6] Hunter recalled: "I read the script and it was a very visceral experience. It's extremely raw, it was not a filled-in picture. It felt more like a feeling than anything else. And that's unusual for a script to communicate like that. It sort of declares itself, it comes at you. And the movie does, too. And that's unusual, for a movie to be able to have the same impetus on the screen that it has on the page."[10] Brie Larson, who was herself 13 when the film released, auditioned for one of the parts in the film but was rejected.[11]

Hardwicke subsequently managed to raise approximately $2 million, almost all through independent equity financing. Most of the adult actors were widely known and all of them reportedly agreed to low pay because they liked the script along with other members of the cast and crew. Wood and Reed were both 14 years old during filming (Wood turned 15 during the shoot).[12]


Thirteen was shot on lower-cost super 16mm film over a period of 24 days.[6] The camera was small, had a Panavision lens and was mostly hand-held by cinematographer Elliot Davis, which helped achieve a documentary, "cinéma vérité" style.[4][13] Principal photography took place on location[4] in Los Angeles, with Melrose Avenue, Hollywood Boulevard, and Venice Beach serving as filming locations. The Freeland home scenes were shot at a rented house in the San Fernando Valley. The outdoor school scenes were shot at Portola Middle School in Tarzana, California.

Some scenes in the film were carefully and colorfully lit, while others were shot only with whatever daylight could be had. Due to child labor laws, the underage performers were only allowed to work a regulated number of hours per day.[6] This made for a frenetic production atmosphere, which cast and crew later said matched the script and added to the film's fast and emotionally taut pace. The film stock was transferred to the digital domain wherein the colors and saturation were highly manipulated for some segments.[12] The beginning of the film was very slightly desaturated in the scenes before Tracy became friends with Evie. Once they became friends, the saturation was increased to a "glowy" effect, according to Hardwicke. After the scene where Evie and Tracy make out with Luke, the saturation slowly becomes less and less until the end of the film, especially after Evie is told that she can't live with Tracy anymore and Tracy is abandoned by the popular group.

The wardrobe worn by the girls was mostly their own. As filming progressed, the girls began dressing similarly without being asked to do so. The girls did not take any dangerous substances during the film. They are shown smoking cigarettes, but these were filled mostly with catnip. The crushed pills they are shown snorting from the cover of a children's book were actually vitamins.[14]

All of the scenes in which Tracy cut herself were shot in a single day; Wood recalled running to her brother for emotional support between some takes. Wood later described the shooting of the two make out scenes with Javi and Luke as "awkward" because her family was watching behind the scenes. Wood's mother requested that in the scenes with Tracy's bra exposed, that the front of her not be seen on camera. The whole scene with Luke was rendered in a single, long and uncut take with Wood, Reed and Pardue, but was tightly choreographed with several crew members, social workers and parents also in the small room, carefully staying either hidden or behind the camera as it panned more than 200°, showing all four walls.[12]


Box office[edit]

Thirteen was picked up by Fox Searchlight Pictures after production was completed.[15] The film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival on January 17, 2003.[16][17] In the United States, it was given a limited release on August 20, 2003, in New York City, followed by its Los Angeles premiere on August 22.[18] At the film's premiere screenings in Manhattan, brochures for Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) were distributed.[15]

During its opening weekend, the film earned $116,260 at the U.S. box office, showing on 5 screens.[2] Its release expanded to 243 theaters on September 19, 2003, and it went on to gross a total of $4,601,043 in the United States before concluding its theatrical run on December 18, 2003.[2] In international markets, it grossed a further $5,527,917, making for a worldwide gross of $10.1 million.[2]

Critical response[edit]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 81% of 155 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 7.3/10. The website's consensus reads: "An emotionally wrenching, not to mention terrifying, film about the perils of being a teenager."[19] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 70 out of 100, based on 37 critics, indicating "generally favorable" reviews.[20]

Film critic Roger Ebert awarded the film three-and-a-half out of four stars, writing: "Who is this movie for? Not for most 13-year-olds, that's for sure. The R rating is richly deserved, no matter how much of a lark the poster promises. Maybe the film is simply for those who admire fine, focused acting and writing; Thirteen sets a technical problem that seems insoluble, and meets it brilliantly, finding convincing performances from its teenage stars, showing [...] a parent who is clueless but not uncaring, and a world outside that bedroom window that has big bad wolves, and worse."[21] Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times wrote: "The movie has the ebb and flow that come from material structured as a series of anecdotes—it doesn't build, and sometime feels as cluttered as a 13-year-old's bedroom. But that may be a byproduct of Catherine Hardwicke, making her directorial debut, working to layer incidents that are as far as possible from the weary set of clichés that inform pictures about teenagers. Usually, the protagonist is the bystander—in Thirteen, she's the fuse."[22]

Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Manohla Dargis characterized the film as an "arty exploitation flick," adding: "Only audiences that have been locked inside a bomb shelter for the last 50 years will be shocked by what happens in Thirteen. The clothes are scantier and the music heavier on the bass since James Dean yelled "You're tearing me apart!" to his befuddled father in the mid-1950s melodrama Rebel Without a Cause. But the story about the anguished outsider trying to fit in no matter what hasn't changed much since the movies discovered the troubled teenager."[23] The Washington Post's Laura Stepp noted in her review that the film "portrays adolescence at its most desperate. If you have a daughter in her early teens or almost there, the R-rated film will make you want to run home, hold her tightly for a few minutes and then lock her up while you struggle with all the questions the film raises but doesn't answer."[24]

The Hollywood Reporter called the film "a chilling look at a pair of contemporary Valley girls—13-year-olds who are way beyond their years but also are nearly beyond repair,"[16] while the Chicago Tribune's Michael Wilmington called it "an excellent, unforgettable film," but also deemed it "extremely disturbing."[4]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Awards Category Result Ref.
Academy Awards Best Supporting Actress (Holly Hunter) Nominated [25]
BAFTA Awards Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Holly Hunter) Nominated [26]
Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture (Holly Hunter) Nominated [27]
Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama (Evan Rachel Wood) Nominated
Independent Spirit Awards Best Debut Performance (Nikki Reed) Won [28][29]
Best First Feature (Catherine Hardwicke) Nominated
Best First Screenplay (Catherine Hardwicke, Nikki Reed) Nominated
Locarno Festival Silver Leopard Award (Catherine Hardwicke) Won [30]
Leopard Award for Best Actress (Holly Hunter) Won
MTV Movie & TV Awards Breakthrough Female Performance (Evan Rachel Wood) Nominated [31]
National Board of Review Special Recognition for Excellence in Filmmaking Won [32]
Satellite Awards Best Actress – Drama (Evan Rachel Wood) Nominated [33]
Best Actress – Drama (Nikki Reed) Nominated
Best Director (Catherine Hardwicke) Nominated
Best Supporting Actress – Drama (Holly Hunter) Nominated
Best Motion Picture – Drama Nominated
Best Original Screenplay (Catherine Hardwicke, Nikki Reed) Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role (Evan Rachel Wood) Nominated [34]
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role (Holly Hunter) Nominated [35]
Sundance Film Festival Directing Award – Dramatic (Catherine Hardwicke) Won [36]
Grand Jury Prize – Dramatic Nominated


Soundtrack album by
ReleasedAugust 19, 2003 (2003-08-19)[37]

The score was written by Mark Mothersbaugh. An official soundtrack was released on August 19, 2003, by Nettwerk Records, which includes songs by Liz Phair, Clinic, Folk Implosion, Imperial Teen, Katy Rose, The Like, and MC 900 Ft. Jesus.[38]

Track listing[edit]

1."Mas"Carlos Chairez · Joaquin Lozano ·Juan Gongora · Agustin CerezoKinky4:21
2."Super Bad Girl"Kirk Johnson · Tom Merkle · John FieldsIffy4:18
3."The Equaliser"ClinicClinic3:43
4."Ivanka"Roddy Bottum · Will Schwartz · Lynn Perko · Jone StebbinsImperial Teen3:17
5."(So I’ll Sit Here) Waiting"Z BergThe Like4:37
6."Make It with the Best"Lou Barlow · Wally Gagel · Russell PollardThe Folk Implosion3:56
7."Beso"Carmen Rizzo · Jamie Muhoberac · Kinnie StarrCarmen Rizzo featuring Kinnie Star3:36
8."Killer inside Me" (Meat Beat Manifestation remix)Mark GriffinMC 900 Ft. Jesus4:53
9."Explain It to Me"Liz PhairLiz Phair3:11
10."Lemon"Katy Rose · Kim BullardKaty Rose4:47
11."Pay Attention to Me"Orlando Brown · Mark CarterOrlando Brown4:15
12."The Freshest"Sam Hollander · Dave SchommerThe Freshmaka featuring Chubb Rock & Tarsha Vega2:52
13."Nicotine"Annette DucharmeAnet3:43
14."Bien Caliente"Karl Leiker · Brin DahlheimerThe Tormentos4:04
15."The Shoot Out" (score)Mark MothersbaughMark Mothersbaugh1:09
16."Hit Me" (score)MothersbaughMothersbaugh1:47
Total length:00:58:23


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External links[edit]