2017: Year of Bad Movie Parents

Warning: These contain spoilers.

“They’re gazebos! They’re bullshit!” – Jack Dylan Grazier in “It (2017).”

Let’s face it.

Twenty-seventeen was a horrible year to be a child character onscreen.

Perhaps this is true of most, but I especially noticed what seemed like a never-ending array of examples of atrocious movie parenting this year. These could be roughly slotted into several categories including:

1. Parents who mean well but are otherwise too overwhelmed to focus on their kids.

2. Parents who are deliberately neglectful and/or abusive.

3. Parents for whom “doing the right thing” winds up having horrific consequences for their children.

(Of course, we still have a month to go, but I think there’s more than enough evidence to arrive at this hypothesis early.)

Grandparents were not excluded either – witness the grandmother in “Good Time” who abused her mentally handicapped adult son and wasn’t real kind to the other non-disabled one. Perhaps matching or surpassing her is the grandmother in “Gifted,” who not only destroys her daughter’s romantic relationship but attempts to put her granddaughter’s beloved cat to sleep while her father is temporarily out of the picture. Though there were also examples to offset these, including Michael Caine in “Going In Style,” who is never too busy for Joey King, despite being at risk of losing his pension. And planning a bank robbery.

Kicking off the year, we had Alexa Nisenson’s dad (Charlie Day) in “Fist Fight,” who spends most of the movie dodging fellow teacher Ice Cube who wants to inflict serious damage on him for revenge, while meanwhile his young daughter frets about her upcoming talent show performance. Then when Charlie finally arrives at her school, she flubs her first attempt (since he’s late) and then decides to rally by performing an R-rated routine directed at her nemesis.

We were also given two onscreen examples of Munchausen-by-proxy Syndrome, first with Amandla Stenberg’s mom in “Everything, Everything” who has convinced her teenage daughter that she has a disease requiring complete housebound-ness, the wearing of interchangeable white t-shirts and limited human contact – at least until a cute guy moves in next door and starts flirting with her (from a safe distance). The second came in “It (2017),” in which Jack Dylan Grazier gets an unpleasant surprise when he goes to the pharmacy to pick up his meds. He wasn’t alone in the movie – “It” was a buffet of bad parent roles from the overbearing to the distant, including Sophia Lillis’s incestuous dad. (Few lines this year are more cringe-inducing than his repeated “Are you still my little girl?”)

In another Stephen King film adaptation, “The Dark Tower,” the young protagonist’s (Tom Taylor’s) mother attempts to have him sent to an institution for troubled youths headed by supernatural killer, Jude Law and his accomplices, forcing him to flee into another dimension. In “The Circle,” a futuristic fantasy in which no dimension of life is free from being witnessed by millions, Emma Watson’s parents have the gall to be sexually active while they’re being filmed 24-7 for their daughter’s project at her new job, thereby mortifying her in front of the world.

A less inventive but perhaps equally detrimental experiment occurs in “Home Again,” in which Lola Flanery’s about-to-be-divorced mom conducts an experiment in which she attempts to see how many men she can invite to stay in their home (including dear old dad) until tension spills over to the point where there’s trouble. (Hint: Three is more than enough.) Young Noah Jupe’s mother in “Sububicon” from the little we see of her appears to be a decent parent, but she expires early in a botched robbery, leaving him at the mercies of his dad (Matt Damon) who may or may not have arranged the robbery, carries on an affair with his sister-in-law, threatens to send Noah to military school, and eventually takes notice of what’s going on next door to reveal himself to be racist.

A standout in the abusive/neglectful parent category are the mom and dad of “The Glass Castle’s” Ella Anderson’s parents, who drag her and her siblings around the US (sometimes in the back of a moving van), teach her to swim by half-drowning her, leave their kids with their creepy incestuous grandmother (another one!), and pimp her out when she’s a teen – in order for her dad to regain a debt. In contrast, Kate Mara’s mom in “Megan Leavey” who misses her daughter’s graduation, only to respond with “Can they hold it over again?” when Kate informs her of her error, seems benign, even though she clearly doesn’t get her kid.

This summer, we also got “The House,” in which Ryan Simpkins’ parents, upon realizing that their daughter’s scholarship money has been pilfered by the town for other funds, gamely embark on a journey that involves turning their neighbor’s place into an underground casino, amputating a neighbor’s digits, and breaking the law in other ways – all in order to make sure Ryan can arrive at freshman orientation in the fall on time.

Other hapless young adults onscreen include Kumail Nanjiani in “The Big Sick,” whose parents, distraught that he’s seeing a white girl, essentially disown him. At the end, the dad shows signs of détente, but mom is questionable. In “Happy Death Day,” Jessica Rothe is trapped in a time-loop that forces her to relive the anniversary of her mom’s death (and her birthday), and repeatedly rebuffs her dad’s lunch invitation, since she’s trying to evade a psycho-killer. Her dad isn’t told outright of this horror, so he may be excused for his negligence. On the other hand, earlier in the year Zoey Deutch’s mom (Jennifer Beals) in ‘Before I Fall” does not realize her child is trapped in a time loop either, but manages to be a loving parent anyway.

Were there any halfway decent guardians onscreen this year? Well, yes, but the one that stands out is a non-parent: the guardian nun (Stephanie Sigman) in “Annabelle: The Creation,” who valiantly tries to shield her orphan charges (including a young girl crippled by polio and pursued by an evil spirit). And Tom Holland’s guardian (Marisa Tomei) in “Spider Man: The Homecoming”  was also understanding of her ward’s secrecy, even when she happens upon him and his best friend half-dressed. Let’s hope 2018 brings better examples of parenting onscreen. They certainly couldn’t get much worse.


What’s in a Movie Title?: Post Holiday Ramblings

Titles can be tricky things. Both to arrive at, and then for the general populace to figure out whether they appeal to them, which ultimately should lead to commercial success. Anyone who has had the experience of trying to come up with a title (no matter for how trivial a subject) in a group setting is likely familiar with the process whereby people start volunteering names at a steady clip, then there is a lull as it dawns on everyone that this might be harder than it seems, and then there is a period where, after agreement, people start tossing out names that descend into complete silliness, before everyone reorganizes and finally picks a winner.

To mix mediums here, novelist Peter Benchley had a devil of a time coming up with what ultimately became “Jaws,” which everyone he talked to hated, but at least could reach some sort of consensus on. Benchley Sr. suggested, presumably with tongue firmly in cheek, the title, “What Dat’s Noshin’ on My Laig?” The matter of movie names involves certain factors, but in the end may boil down to whatever is considered the least objectionable.

Naming your movie after the subject if it’s a person may work but only if it’s a relatively non-famous individual. Otherwise the name has probably already been taken, but it’s possible to get away with duplicates. Still, it’s better to be clear if you can. “J. Edgar,” the biopic with Leonardo DiCaprio was allegedly named that because the director feared “Hoover” would evoke the vacuum cleaner. Or the former president.

Speaking of presidents, there lately seems to be a spate of misleadingly named movies coming out that aren’t actually biopics about well-known people but sure sound as if they could be. These include “Lady Bird,” which is not about the former Mrs. Lyndon Johnson, and “Mr. Roosevelt,” which concerns neither Theodore nor Franklin but is the name of the main character’s cat. Now “Lady Bird,” is currently in the top ten box office-wise and being heavily advertised, so I may go to see it, but I can’t help wondering why they didn’t choose a less-misleading title. Fall is a ripe time for Oscar-courting biopics (example: “LBJ”), so it might have been wise.

Another recent misleading title is “The Limehouse Golem,” which when I first heard of it, sent shivers down my spine. However, I grew excited too soon because:

1. Wherever the movie was released, it’s nowhere near me, including the closest cities which usually snag the indies and potential Oscar-baits. That in itself is no tragedy because waiting a few months to view it is hardly a hardship. However, there’s a second snag which is:

2. According to one critic luckier than I, who’s actually seen the film, no actual golem makes an appearance.

Scratch that then. (Although I expect there is a real limehouse, unless that’s purely a metaphor, too.)

Length is (or should be) a key factor in choosing a film title, too. Sometimes a movie parodying a certain genre will wind up with a long title in order to include as many targets as possible by name. Example: “Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood.” Another is “The 41 Year Old Virgin That Knocked Up Sarah Marshall And Felt Superbad About It.” Including the author of the novel on which the movie is based also stretches the title out. Out of curiosity, I googled “longest movie title ever” and came up with this whopper:

Night of the Day of the Dawn of the Son of the Bride of the Return of the Revenge of the Terror of the Attack of the Evil, Mutant, Hellbound, Flesh-Eating Subhumanoid Zombified Living Dead, Part 2: In Shocking 2-D.” James Riffel, 1991.

While I commend Mr. Riffel on his accomplishment, the fact remains that only a fraction of that title could be squeezed onto movie billboards with the likely result that the full impact was somewhat diminished when people drove by the theater or checked media outlets for currently playing films. The 1995 Hugh Grant movie “The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain,” did not survive its title being unmolested by media outlets or theater billboards, although at the time simply calling it “the latest Hugh Grant movie” was enough of a draw for his fans.

Here’s how my local paper shrunk the title in its listings due to space restrictions: “The Englishman Who Went Up.” One can imagine the confusion for those unfamiliar with the movie plot. On the plus side, however, the film might sound more appealing shortened, regardless of the reasons and thus result in a more lucrative box office tally.

Thus it pays to be extra careful when choosing a film title. This year, there seems to be a spate of movies with “Wonder” in the title, perhaps coincidence, perhaps not. Next year, who knows?


2017 Fall Movie Lessons

Warning: These contain spoilers.

Good Time

1. It’s always best to double check before you spring a hospital patient whose face is obscured by bandages in case it’s not actually your brother.

2. White Castle is a great place to refuel and clog up your arteries before you destroy your life even further.

3. A teenager whose boyfriend is a dealer may not be fazed by a total stranger showing up at her grandmother’s apartment in the middle of the night, even when you start unexpectedly making out with her.

Annabelle: Creation

4. If you’re staying at a reclusive couple’s home and sense evil, you should trust your instincts and run for your life.

5. Even an innocent looking scarecrow stored in a barn can come alive and thwart your plans for escape when you least expect it.

6. Throwing a demon-possessed doll down a cistern is just going to make it angrier, so you might want to destroy it more directly.

It (2017)

7. Evil clowns are actually methodical in when they decide to kidnap and murder kids. If you suspect one may be terrorizing your small town, look for a pattern.

8. If you find the prospect of exploring a sewer tunnel scary and disgusting, remember how the girl who disappeared into there without returning feels.

9. Even mean girls say something helpful once in awhile, such as that your mom may be giving your placebo meds for your “illnesses.”

Home Again

10. Encouraging your moody older daughter to submit a play to a contest works better than any antidepressant for cheering her up.

11. If you lecture a twentysomething on immaturity, it is probably best not to negate that by then going out and making an idiot of yourself while drunk.

12. There’s a limit to how many men you can invite to stay in your house at once before a fistfight breaks out.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

13. If you’re dangling upside down during a car chase, it’s a good idea to use the liquor bottle from the mini-bar to assault the bad guy after you.

14. If your friend is hanging out at your home looking after your dog when you’re not there, you should probably lock your top secret spy room.

15. Never underestimate the power of Sir Elton John to help you defeat the bad guys when you’re in a tight spot.

Battle of the Sexes

16. If your number one rival is deeply conflicted over her secret lesbian affair, it’s a huge bonus for your own game.

17. If you want someone to agree to play you in an exhibition tennis match, it’s best not to interrupt their sleep in the middle of the night, especially when they’ve never told you their hotel room phone number or even their specific hotel.

18. It’s better to remove a jacket your sponsor gave you during a big match rather than risk passing out from heat stroke (even if men allegedly have more stamina than women).


19. You may be conflicted about whether or not you’re a hero for surviving a terrorist attack, but trust me, no one else will be.

20. Even if you’re an amputee in a wheelchair, it’s still possible to rile your girlfriend up enough so that she literally walks away and doesn’t return.

21. Being revealed as a public hero is a huge bonus when you get pulled over for driving drunk, as long as you’re willing to provide an autograph in return for not being charged.


22. If you’re going to case a crime scene near water, always wear a secondhand pair of shoes if not knee-high waterproof boots.

23. Claiming you couldn’t scream during an abduction because you were gagged is a defense that will fall apart in court if someone decides to demonstrate.

24. If your husband is potentially being threatened and grabs a knife before getting the door, it’s always good to grab a backup weapon yourself just in case.

Happy Death Day

25. Asking for Tylenol before you depart for the day is a perfectly valid thing to do to a guy you presumably hooked up with and plan never to see again.

26. When trapped in a time loop, reliving each day makes you weaker, but you still retain the ability to smash glass with your scantily clad arm and not hemorrhage to death on the spot.

27. The benefits of belonging to a fat-shaming sorority include being able to successfully conceal yourself behind a concrete pillar when you’re being chased by a psycho-killer in a parking garage.


28. Choosing a night there is a full-fledged race riot going on next door is a good cover if you want to commit murder.

29. If you need a getaway vehicle, your child’s bike will serve in a pinch, although you might look rather silly riding it.

30. If it’s a choice between death or traumatizing your nephew further by asking him to remove the weapon embedded in your back, it’s best to say goodbye calmly and go into another room to expire.


31. It’s good to be the king, or at least the Senate leader for it may all be downhill from there in terms of other politicians’ respect.

32. Sometimes it helps to sincerely like yourself before trying to get other people to like you.

33. A changing world may one day make it inevitable that you must ultimately call out your longtime mentor for his prejudiced views.

Murder on the Orient Express

34. If you want to avoid having your profession pinpointed by a stranger sitting next to you, it’s a good idea to make sure there are no telltale stains on your clothes or hands.

35. Eyeglasses, a pompous attitude and affected racism will not be enough to deter a truly astute detective who will eventually see through your “professor” disguise.

36. “Holding one’s feet to the fire,” can be used literally to unearth a murder confession, if you insist that all train passengers disembark and huddle before you in snow-covered nowhere while you announce your hypothesis.

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Look Back: Bridget Jones’s Diary

People have different definitions of the word “genius,” but I think regardless of which one you use, Jane Austen qualifies, not only because her books, set in period England, translate so well when Hollywood wants to make a modernized version of them (something that’s also true of Shakespeare) but because she managed to write two novels with opposite life lessons, both of which resonate with today’s reader/viewer. To use a test analogy: “Clueless” (film) is to “Emma” (novel) as “Bridget Jones’s Diary” is to “Pride and Prejudice,” with the added twist that “Bridget Jones” became a bestselling novel initially and is written by Helen Fielding, who knows a good classic to update when she sees one. The sequels “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason,” and “Bridget Jones’s Baby,” both made it to the big screen, as well, which I enjoyed (though I never got past the first twenty pages of the first “BJ” novel).

While the heroine of “Clueless” eventually clues into the fact that she should stop focusing so much on fixing her friends’ love lives and figure out who would make her personally happy to be with, the heroine of “Bridget Jones’s Diary” comes to realize that she should stop fixating on her calorie count, number of smokes per day, etc. and – gasp – just be herself and focus on the people who like her the way she is. Other lessons you can glean from the book/movie include.

1. It’s the manners, not the clothes, that make a love interest. And even then you can be mistaken if someone’s just having a bad day.

At the beginning of “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” Renee reluctantly attends a Christmas party with her parents (Jim Broadbent and Gemma Jones) only to discover that Colin Firth is there, too, under similar circumstances. Sadly, not only does he come attired in a sweater with a reindeer on it, he is markedly unimpressed by Renee, and when she overhears him calling her a “verbally incontinent spinster,” potential sparks fizzle. Stung, Renee decides to keep a diary of self-improvement measures over the next year which includes finding a much better man. Little does she suspect that first impressions are not always right.

2. Mixing the personal and professional is ultimately a horrible idea.

However, there is hope on the horizon. Soon Renee doesn’t have to obsess about Colin because she begins a fling with her boss (Hugh Grant) at work, which involves (the book came out in the nineties) exchanging steamy emails, and eventually, Renee sleeps with Hugh, although she is unfortunately wearing granny panties (Hugh professes to find them charming). Hugh also confides to Renee about Colin’s (allegedly) caddish behavior, prompting Renee to be very glad she is not with him.

3. If you’re attending a costume party, double check to make sure you really must show up in costume.

In one of just a long string of wacky misunderstandings, Renee attends yet another party, which she erroneously believes is a “Tarts and Vicars” one. Thus she shows up in a Playboy bunny-style outfit. This does nothing for her self-confidence, but it does reveal either further social cluelessness – or perhaps hidden depths of chutzpah.

4. If you’re going to unleash long held-in grudges, try not to involve innocent diners in a restaurant.

Eventually, Colin tells Renee the real story, which is that Hugh is the bad one, then follows this up by punching Hugh, which triggers a full-blown English brawl, part of which takes place in a restaurant. Both men, however, manage to retain some manners in that they stop to wish a patron a Happy Birthday, even if they then continue to demolish their surroundings.

5. If a man is willing to eat blue mystery soup that you’ve cooked, he’s probably The One.

Towards the end of the movie, Renee hosts a small dinner party, attended by her three close friends and Colin, involving hours of preparation – only to produce several modest dishes, including the aforesaid blue soup. It’s also there that she begins to truly realize that Colin is the one for her. Of course, there are two more movies to go, which means more bumps along the way, but that’s the risk you have to take as a heroine of a trilogy.

A Look Back: Little Miss Sunshine

“Everyone, just pretend to be normal.”

That’s the order given to the Hoover clan in “Little Miss Sunshine,” when their VW bus is pulled over en route to a kid’s beauty pageant (long story), and from what we have already seen of these people, we know it will be a tall order, to put it mildly. The head of the clan, Greg Kinnear, is a totally unsuccessful motivational speaker who divides the world into winners and losers, or as Dave Barry once put it, takes his philosophy of life from Nike commercials. His more-grounded-but-not-by-a-lot wife is played by Toni Collette, hauling one of her patented world-weary mom indie film roles out of the bag. Toni’s grown brother, played by Steve Carell, has just returned to crash with them when the movie begins and is despondent because his boyfriend has dumped him for the second most eminent Proust scholar in the country (Steve being the first, a point he is very proud of). The reason for this journey in the first place is their young daughter (Abigail Breslin) who has managed to qualify for a beauty pageant. “Managed” is relevant because Abigail, although bright and spunky, is not the kind of classically photogenic child one might think would compete in one, but this plot hole is solved by having had relatives help her qualify for the first round. (One imagines that Toni would not be much help in prepping her child for a pageant in the first place – she has too much to deal with already on her plate.)

There’s also Abigail’s morose older brother (Paul Dano) who is going through a phase where he hates everyone (and perhaps himself, as well) which is not atypical of a teenager but with the added twist that he has taken a vow of silence, inspired by Nietzsche, and only communicates via pad and pen. Rounding out the cast is Abigail’s grandfather (Alan Arkin) who has been ejected from his retirement community for the kinds of shenanigans that only elderly people in R-rated movies engage in (drug use and sexual escapades) and who is now living with the Hoovers and helping Abigail prepare for her big event. Eventually, the entire family decides to accompany Abigail on the cross-country trip, which like all movie trips, is ill-fated in that their bus will display unreliability, one character will discover in a very cruel way that he is not destined to become a pilot, and another character will expire. It all culminates in perhaps the most inappropriate talent segment for child pageants in movie history.

If “Little Miss Sunshine” was a TV movie, it would likely go the cliché route of having Abigail’s father realize that the world is more complex, but because it’s an indie, we’re spared that. “Little Miss Sunshine,” however, is bested in overall poor taste by another beauty pageant movie “Drop Dead Gorgeous,” in which a rival is actually electrocuted and another character loses her hand. Neither cast is remotely “normal,” but at least in “Little Miss Sunshine,” we’re able to laugh with, not at, this unique group and be glad we accompanied them on their journey.



Movie Review: Murder on the Orient Express

“It drew her eyes; it frightened her. A big black hook.”

That’s not from Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express” the film version of the novel which opens today, directed and starred in by Kenneth Branaugh, but “And Then There Were None,” which I read in junior high and involves a couple of key characters, trapped in a small space with a bunch of accused murderers, doing something grisly with that hook. Shortly after I read “And Then There Were None,” I stayed at a ski lodge on vacation which had a spare bedroom with a big black hook hanging from the ceiling. In retrospect, it was probably just there for a plant, but it gave me the chills nonetheless. Did our host – whom I did not know very well – want me dead, too? Had I committed a crime for which I had gone unpunished?

Admittedly, I had an overactive imagination, so I can only wonder what I would have started thinking had I been in Kenneth Branaugh’s shoes (he plays the famous Belgian detective Hercules Poirot) when he boards the titular Orient Express in the film and a dead passenger (Johnny Depp) is soon discovered. The bad news: the train has more than enough suspects; the good news is that there’s a famous detective on board who can solve it, plus the train keeps breaking down in the middle of snow-covered nowhere, so at least there’s plenty of time to think before they reach their destination. (Of course, that gives the killer plenty time to strike again). And I had plenty of time to ponder things while watching the movie. Things relevant to the movie, such as whodunit, but also things like, “Is Kenneth Branaugh wearing colored contact lenses? Surely, that’s not a shade of blue found in nature.” and “Just how long did it take to put on that mustache anyway?” This is because although all the performances (from Dame Judi Dench to Josh Gad) as the other passengers are excellent, the movie seemed awfully long. A critic (sorry can’t remember who) once said of Johnny Depp’s performance in “Black Mass” that he enters every scene as if he’s won first place in a costume party, and that line ran through my head whenever Kenneth made a dramatic appearance. (Sometimes he is even filmed from above, which gave me a crick in my neck, but didn’t happen too often.)

The plot revolves around a crime that occurred prior to the journey, when the young daughter of a rich couple is kidnapped and murdered. Unsurprisingly, everyone on the train has some kind of connection to this crime – though of course, there’s plenty of misrepresenting the truth so it will take all Kenneth’s wits and wiles to extract what is really going on. And naturally, the killer might possibly want Kenneth dead, too once he starts snooping around. There is lots of tension, but also lots of scenery chewing, and not just by Kenneth, although he’s the worst offender. I expected to see “Oscar clip” pop up in a few scenes, a.k.a. “Wayne’s World.” But it does provide food for thought – you could hear a pin drop in my theater once it was done, though that may just have been people wondering what they were going to have for dinner.

A Look Back: Thirteen

As a general rule of thumb, if you want to give someone a makeover in a Hollywood movie, your odds of success, often beyond your wildest dreams, are all but guaranteed. This is mainly because the only characters who require remaking are undeniably attractive once they remove a few key elements. Impressive makeovers in the movie pantheon include Patrick Dempsey in “Can’t Buy Me Love,” who wound up looking hot with the sleeves ripped off his shirt; Anne Hathaway in “The Princess Diaries,” after she ditches her specs and frizzy ‘do; and Olivia Newton John in “Grease,” who taught impressionable girls in the seventies that what you really need to appeal to a guy is a pushup bra and pants so tight you need the Jaws of Life to remove them. Twists on the youthful makeover include the original “Freaky Friday,” in which Barbara Harris gets to experience every mother-of-a-teen’s-dream when she gives her daughter (Jodie Foster) a makeover while she is actually in Jodie’s body. (OK, perhaps not the second part.) The result is that Jodie emerges looking awfully like she’s about to go to work at a bank, but all that is soon dispelled when she has to perform in a water-skiing show afterwards. Perhaps female characters are more fun to makeover given that many little girls enjoy pretending to be princesses whereas few little boys pine to become princes.

In “Thirteen,” a 2004 movie, the young star (Evan Rachel Wood) gets an anti-princess makeover of sorts, which leads (as expected) to increased popularity but also (as expected) a lot of risky adventures that teach her some harsh lessons about those who try to grow up too fast. When the movie starts, Evan is the kind of good girl who (literally) plays with Barbies and doesn’t cause her recovering alcoholic single mom (Holly Hunter) to lose sleep. However, she becomes bewitched by the bad girl (Nikki Reed, who wrote the screenplay – as a teen – as well) of her seventh grade class and embarks on an at-first fruitless quest to get her attention. Guilt-tripping her mom until Holly takes her to secure some designer (or close enough) stuff, Evan also experiments with shoplifting – after which, the two girls are close to becoming inseparable. After Nikki, employing the wiles of seasoned bad girls, manages to insert herself into Holly’s household to the point where she stays overnight, confides some disturbing things about her own guardian, the stage is set for the two teens to self-destruct. And this they do, – everything from sexually harassing a neighborhood guy (Kip Purdue) who calls them “jailbait” to body piercing. The film ends with Evan’s former life in flames. Her last word of dialogue is literally, “Stop,” and in case the viewer misses the point, we see her on a merry-go-round.

“Thirteen” will give anyone who has ever seen an Afterschool Special or a Lifetime Movie of the Week about a “good” kid who rapidly goes bad deja vu. Evan experiments with antisocial behavior like it’s a buffet, and she hasn’t seen food for weeks, but the dialogue and the actions of the two young actresses ring true. I suppose parents of teens could watch it and (most of them) feel relief that at least their child’s acting out isn’t as bad as Evan’s. At least Evan, after being initially embarrassed by Nikki, does not do what Winona Ryder in “Heathers” did and plot her murder. The movie does not end on an optimistic note, but I suppose the viewer is free to fill in their own.