Friday, January 24, 2014

Gimme Shelter Movie Review

Vanessa Hudgens stars in Gimme Shelter

She Can Do This 

Repeat after me, "I'm OK. I can do this. I'm not scared." We've all said it before... you, me, everyone. But we didn't have to go through half the sh*t Apple Bailey has to, in Ron Krauss' revealing drama Gimme Shelter. 16. Abandoned. Homeless. Pregnant. It's enough to make you cut off your hair, and run away. It's also enough to give Vanessa Hudgens the breakout performance of her career... assuming you recognize the 25-year-old beauty to begin with.

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: Based on a true story that centers on 16-year-old Agnes "Apple" Bailey (Vanessa Hudgens), Gimme Shelter uncovers the struggle for survival and the hope of redemption through the harsh realities of life on the streets. As a pregnant teenager, Apple's journey plummets her into a perilous struggle until finding salvation in a suburban shelter for homeless teens. With provisions of unprecedented comfort, a collective sisterhood connection and female empowerment, the shelter elevates Apple to break the shackles of her past and inspires her to embrace the future with clarity, maturity and hope not only for herself but her unborn child.

What’s Best: Hudgens is sensational, and almost unrecognizable as a troubled teen with nowhere to turn. It takes guts to get "uglied up" in this business (just wait until you see fellow hottie Rosario Dawson) but it's likely going to pay dividends for the former High School Musical star, in terms of street Hollywood cred. Apple on her own, is a site to see: Her resolve pours through, especially during an at-home pregnancy test.

Brendan Fraser is a friendly (and familiar) face as Apple's dad Tom, but his character seems to get painted with a rather generous brush... leaving Dawson's June as the sole culprit for Apple's lot in life (10 foster homes by age 12, etc.) It's curious how Tom ends up with the American dream, while June & Apple fall into despair. Later on, June & Tom reunite for an impromptu meeting, and it's downright chilling.

What’s Not: I'm still trying to figure out how/why the movie glosses over the actions of Tom's wife, Joanna (Stephanie Szostak.) How's this for an adult, pampered mother of two? "I want her out," and "We're not going to deal with this (Apple's baby.") Way to show compassion Mom. Still, that's nothing compared to driving Apple to the clinic, abandoning her (so she has to walk back home, in the rain) and then lying about it after. It seems like an awfully big hole to leave unfilled.

The second half of the film, where Apple moves into a shelter for pregnant, homeless teens takes us in another direction altogether... one that preaches at its audience, showing prospective Apples out there, that there's always hope (as long as you find a shelter like this.) Truth is, the world is a lot scarier than Gimme Shelter lets on. Most runaways don't have a posh New Jersey address to track down a guy like Tom, to begin with. Ditto for the scene where a scary bad guy (drug dealer/pimp) stops Apple in the street, orders her into his SUV... only to have Apple outsmart him, steal the car and crash it (eventually waking up in a hospital bed, where she meets a sympathetic priest (James Earl Jones.) I don't think I need to tell you how that story usually pans out.

Best Line: Apple's a smart (worldly) kid, who has no trouble telling off Father McCarthy (Jones) 'You're a priest, and not a very good one at that. Otherwise you'd be in a church.' Leave it to Jones to come back with the ultimate equalizer, 'This (hospital) is my church.'

Overall: The first half of Gimme Shelter is pretty powerful stuff, and the movie obviously has good intentions. The second half drifts off in another direction, one I had a hard time swallowing. That said, Hudgens is solid (with moments of excellence) throughout. She literally disappears into a seemingly thankless role with surprising ease... the kind that usually requires an actor with much more experience to handle.

The first half of Gimme Shelter rates a B in my book; but it lost me soon after. Apple's world is hard to imagine, almost painful. Good movies must entertain; so forgive me for not wanting to better the world, at the cost of not being entertained for the full duration. Worth a look to see how far Hudgens has come; but otherwise, not my cup of tea.

Grade: C+