They dress like Christina Aguilera, blaze up like Cheech and Chong, and shoplift like Winona Ryder. They curse. They cut themselves. Still, the most shocking thing about these girls is right there in the movie's title: They're Thirteen.
Like a teen-angst cross between Kids and Foxes, Catherine Hardwicke's Thirteen came to Sundance so under the radar it could have been designed by the CIA's black ops division. That the film, which stars Holly Hunter and Once and Again's Evan Rachel Wood, waltzed off with a nearly $2 million deal from Fox Searchlight and a best director trophy was unexpected. But it wasn't nearly as big a bombshell as the age of its cowriter and costar, Nikki Reed: She's 14. At an age when most girls are busy hanging up Justin posters (or so we'd like to think), Reed sat down with Hardwicke to write the script. ''I thought it'd be like a teen comedy,'' says Reed. Instead, she found herself spilling her and her friends' girls-gone-wild stories. ''It's hard to take,'' admits Hardwicke. ''We've seen men crying in the audience.''
While telling stories about troubled teens is one thing, selling them will be another. ''Yes, it's provocative material, and yes, it presents a challenge,'' says Fox Searchlight president Peter Rice, who insists, ''I have no interest in selling it in an exploitative way to a younger audience.'' But can Searchlight convince parents to shell out $10 to confirm their worst nightmares? Rice thinks so. ''Everyone who saw Thirteen here loved it. And a lot of them have teenage daughters.'' Daughters, no doubt, who are now being ordered to come straight home from school.