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What lifetime wishes it could be.
This movie could have easily been made for lifetime; there's only a thin line separating the two. However, that thin line saves Thirteen. What makes it different is that it has a raw energy and disturbing authenticity that other movies fail to capture. This movie doesn't try to be about what every teenager goes through, it's just a cross section of what happens to some. This movie isn't flawless: there are spots where the dialog seems forced or unrealistic, but my complaints are not extensive. Holly Hunter, Evan Rachel Wood, and Nikki Reed are absolutely marvelous as actors, a refreshing rarity in movies like this. It's also quite symbolic, and these symbols add more to what it feels like being this age. Pay attention to the color saturation, the poster of Evie's eyes, doors. This movie is the source of very interesting analysis. The first time I saw this, I was 12, and I really liked it, and it reminded me of girls I knew, girls who were doing things that the characters in the movie were. I'm 19 now, and I still think it's pretty good, better than other movies out there about teenagers/pre-teens, and this is coming from someone who usually dislikes movies about this age demographic.
To Save a Life (2009)
It screams "lifetime".
I recently watched this at a church. I couldn't believe it when people were standing up and clapping when the credits rolled.
This is a movie with plot lines about high school age kids you've heard before, only with messages about religion and faith. It's one of those movies that tries to be real but misses and becomes stereotypical and sappy rather than interesting. Jake, the varsity jock has it all: a hot girlfriend, cool friends, team captain, but what a twist, there's something missing from his life! And the movie becomes centered around bringing people together through religion. The whole scenario of Jake's old friend going to school and killing himself while there was gimmicky, but it could have been redeemed with some real exploration about what really causes these feelings of isolation. What the plot focuses on is bring people together through faith, but the way it's carried out is not realistic and feels preachy: as if all these kids in this movie should come together under one faith and this particular faith is what people are missing from their lives. I did not believe these characters or their dialog, they don't act like real people, and these moral messages about faith and Christianity are too propaganda ridden and unconvincing. I think movies like this are meant to grab people who are agnostic as means of showing them how important faith is to life, but I don't this movie remotely does the job. In short, I do not recommend this to anyone.
Zoey 101 (2005)
Not so bad, but could have been much better.
First of all, I will say that this isn't a terrible show. This is coming from an 18 year old girl who never liked watching Nickelodeon or The Disney Channel, no matter what age I was. But I do agree with what another reviewer said about it in terms of Jamie Lynn Spears. My big qualm about it was that I see it as a ploy to give people an impression of what Jamie Lynn Spears is like in real life: popular, beautiful, nice, stylish, liked by guys. Jamie Lynn is your basic, generic looking teenage girl who's safe enough for a mainstream audience, but so safe that she and her performance as Zoey are bland. The real acting highlights of the show are Christopher Massey (who plays Mike), Sean Flynn (who plays Chase), and in early seasons, Alexa Nikolas (who plays Nicole). Jamie Lynn is bland and lacks the quirkiness of some of the other characters. I think she's the weakest actor and plays the least interesting character. I don't think seeing a girl have things handed to them the way Zoey does sends a good message to girls: she just re-enforces a stereotype about what it means to fit in and be accepted by society. The premise of the show is catchy, especially towards the pre-teen crowd: going to a glamorous boarding school in California, how fun is that? It's a fantasy life that young girls would love to live, and that's part of what watching TV is in the first place: an escape from our daily lives. The script and many of the plot lines seem contrived and predictable, it could use some creativity and personality. It also often does not have the real, relatable element that other children's/pre-teen shows have (ex: Lizzie McGuire). It doesn't really tap into adolescent insecurity or pressure because these characters have these near perfect lives. Yes, there is the exception of boyfriend/girlfriend drama, but that is usually the height of real-life problems featured in the show.
Overall, it isn't bad. It's just hard to watch because it could have been so much better. I say take away the main character and even that would improve the show drastically. Jamie Lynn just feels like a marketing tool for Nickelodeon to compete with Disney Stars of that time such as Hilary Duff or Raven Simone. I think fame was handed to Jamie because of her older sister Britney Spears, and had the show gone to an unknown public figure, I don't think it would have been as anticipated.