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Saturday, May 22

The Things I Do When Not Out On A Friday Night

After the escapades of an alcohol-flooded Thursday, there was absolutely no way I could face any kind of alcohol yesterday. I could barely face the waking hours, never mind the thought of condemning my brain to more confused and wavering periods.

It was with this in mind that I politely declined the proposal by a couple of housemates to pop up to our old student union bar at the halls we lived in. It wasn't just my lingering hangover that made the decision for me, to be honest: it's a horrible place.

It's a classically crap, small, dark and dingy student bar, with a couple of dodgy pool tables which we know how to 'fix' for a night of free games. Basically, not a brilliant place. I guess it was OK when it was 2 yards away from the door to the hall that I lived in, and when every night there'd be a load of people I knew in there, but now we live a good 5 minutes walk away, and everybody who was there last year has also moved out to various areas of London, I no longer feel the need to go there.

That, and the fact that it feels quite weird being there when you don't actually live in the halls any more. It's like that scene at the start of American Pie II where they're not quite sure if they're the cool older guys at a party, or very sad for trying to fit back in with those younger than them.

I'd rather go to the pub in the other direction from my house, which is an even shorter walk away and is infinitely better. But, as I said, I wasn't in the mood for drinking, no matter where it was going to take place.

Instead, I had the house to myself, and watched a bit of Friday night TV. Excuse me if I slip into the mindset of a teenage girl and proclaim that I am actually going to miss Friends when it finishes next Friday. I've managed to stay away from reports of the final storyline, so don't spoil it for me! (Cue 20 messages telling me how it ends...)

I was just about to sit down and watch a DVD (more on that in a minute) when my mobile rang. I will spare the blushes of the caller, but suffice it to say that she was, erm, tipsy and very talkative. I do like receiving those types of calls! It makes me feel good that I'm not the only one who thinks ringing people is a good idea after a few drinks. It's never a good idea.

Anyway, after that phone call, I put the DVD on, and settled down to watch it. A few of my housemates came back halfway through, but were so good as to be quite quiet whilst I finished watching it, for which I thank them.

What was the DVD, I hear you cry. It was a film called Thirteen, which was out in the cinemas here last autumn, and has just been released on DVD this month. I had been fully intending to go see it in the cinema, but just hadn't got round to doing it. I was thusly very much looking forward to it last night.

It didn't let me down.

I want to write a full review of it, but to fully voice my thoughts on the fim, I'm going to have to include loads of spoilers and plot giveaways. This is why directly below this paragraph it seems as if there is an enormous gap. Highlight the gap and you will be able to read my 'review', including the numerous plot spoilers. For those of you who haven't seen the film yet, don't read it. Go see the film. Now. This instant. Go.

And now I'm at a loss for inspiration to write. Typical. Here goes nothing.

Firstly, a few words on the plot of the film. The basic plot is your fairly standard Nice Girl wants to be as popular as Bad Girl, but eventually discovers that being a Bad Girl isn't as good as being a Nice Girl. However, this film develops that plot by including a number of subplots that push Nice Girl to become a Bad Girl, and then also brings her angst towards her parents and general rebellious nature to the fore.

The screenplay was written jointly by the director and a thirteen-year-old girl, and is mostly an autobiographical account of this girl's life. The nice twist in the casting is that the writer does not take the role based on herself, but instead is the Bad Girl who convinces the main character to leave behind her geeky and girly pretensions in favour of thongs, boys and drugs.

The various characters, brought to life by some great performances by the cast, all have their own roles to play in the reasoning behind Tracy's (the main character) spiral into the darker sides of teen life. Take for instance the boyfriend of her mother.

There is a very brief little flashback shot of him overdosing on coke in their kitchen, and her mother rushing in to help him. She then slams the door on Tracy, telling her to go away. A little later, Tracy calls him a "fucking cokehead" in one of her many outbursts that seem to occur every time she returns to her house.

I have to say that Evan Rachel Wood, who plays Tracy, does fantastically well in the film overall, really showing just how fucked up she becomes due to the lifestyle that she has chosen. The scenes where she bawls at her mother and all of those around her are completed with such intensity and passion that you really identify with the character. Not bad for a young actress.

Nikki Reed, the co-writer / basis of the film, also plays her role brilliantly. She is Evie, the supposedly hottest girl at school who takes Tracy under her wing and introduces her to the various ills of modern society. She is everything that Tracy wants to be, and does everything that Tracy wants to do, from guys to drugs, from smoking to looking good.

As I said above, the actress who plays Evie was in fact a 'Tracy' in real life. Now as Evie, she is able to be the person that she wanted to be, but without any of the dangers and ills that befell her if the plot of the film does in fact follow her own life. You can see how much she is enjoying this role by the glint that is always in her eye, and the permanent half-grin that she wears whilst taking Evie's actions to the limit.

It is quite disturbing and worrying to watch this film as a guy, because you have these two young girls (supposedly 13) on screen, trying to be sexy and show as much flesh as possible, and yet you feel incredibly wrong for finding them at all attractive. I checked the ages of the actresses themselves on, and finding out that they were both 16 at the time of filming made me feel slightly less worried about it.

Even a character in the film has this same problem. The two girls decide to come on to Tracy's next-door neighbour, a guy around my age. They come into his house, and basically clamber all over him, whilst he is constantly telling himself that they are "jailbait". He eventually throws them off of him and tells them to get out, to the response of some very foul langauge from the two girls.

But that's enough about the plot itself, what really grabbed me about the film as a whole was the imagery and cinematography. Most of the action is shot on handheld cameras, resulting in very jerky framing of each scene. This is perfectly in accordance with the fast pace of the film, and the intense emotions which tend to dominate each scene.

Compare this sort of camerawork to that used in The Virgin Suicides. There, in a very melancholy and depressing film, all of the scenes are shot with stationary cameras, with lingering shots of the situation before and after any action and dialogue. In Thirteen, however, the cuts between scenes are sharp and the camerawork is as quick as the characters' tongues.

My favourite little element that I noticed throughout the film was the repetition of an advertising poster at various points. It was a basic white poster with the outline of a face and eyes in simple black lines, and then this bright red pair of glossy lips designed to grab your attention. Tracy ends up stood next to this poster at various times, whilst waiting for a bus or in a phone box.

I bring this up because the poster changes slightly as the plot develops. Initially, it is seen briefly, without much emphasis being put on it. As Tracy immerses herself in Evie's world, we see the poster more often, brighter and more intense than before. Then, at the end, when Evie has abandoned her, and her entire world is falling apart around her, there is a shot of Tracy at a payphone, attempting to call Evie without a response. Next to her is the same poster, but this one has been covered in graffiti and black pock-marks.

To me this serves as a visual illustrator of how Tracy's life has collapsed around her. She had the looks, the boys, the drugs, the life she wanted, but she has realised (or, it has been brought to her attention) that this life is in fact shallow and meaningless. She has lost the friends she had, and her new "friends" have left her too, wanting to find another victim or plaything.

The poster also serves a purpose earlier in the film, when Tracy is just making the transition from Nice Girl to Bad Girl. She goes to meet Evie at Melrose Avenue, to engage in some "shopping" with a five-fingured discount. Suddenly, the screen is full with lurid colours and images of consumerism.

Advertising is everywhere, and shop windows are lingered on by the camera, showing various wares and clothes in all of the colours of the rainbow. We see how the world today is bombarded with images of perfection and consumerism through saturated advertising, and to my mind this is an attempt by the director to apportion some of the blame for the creation of girls such as Evie to the corporate world.

Without this incessant imagery forced down their throats, girls such as Evie wouldn't seem so fantastical and glorious to girls such as Tracy. As Tracy's eventual downfall shows, this world is not all it is portrayed to be. It is dark, lonely and full of people who are not your friends, no matter how much they may appear to be.

So yeah, that's my few thoughts on the film. I did thoroughly enjoy it, and it was definitely worth 2 hours of my time. In fact it was evidently worth more than that, because I've now sat here and wrote this review of it! You really must go see this film.


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