Greetings film fans! Well, as you have noticed from my previous 3-part commentary on Independent/Small Budget Films, you know this is a genre that has opened my eyes to the worth of filmmaking in a way I had previously not realized, and therefore, there are now films of this nature that I am keeping an eye out FOR, and hoping they happen to land in my town. This weekend, one did, and so I offer my first FULL review of an Independent selection, “Gimme Shelter”.
In this day and age of SO many “reality” (yeah, right!) shows and other media focusing on the issue of teen bullying and/or pregnancy, I was of course not completely sure this film was one I wanted to consider, despite the very legitimate importance of the subject matter IN real life and the fact these are young girls in need of genuine support. But as I started hearing about the movie, it caught my attention enough to check it out….and I am glad I did.
The “based on a true story” centers around 16-year old teen Agnes “Apple” Bailey (played amazingly (and surprisingly!) well, in my opinion, by a BARELY recognizable Vanessa Hudgens!), whose life has been about being verbally and physically abused by her drug-addled mother, June (played with an aching intensity by Rosario Dawson), who also happens to be a prostitute. Having finally had enough, Apple forces her way out of the abusive home and onto the streets, hoping to have enough fortitude via her unfortunately learned street smarts to reach the affluent suburb that is home to her biological father Tom (Brendan Fraser), thinking she can just hang out for a while until she gets her bearings on life. Upon spending the initial days with Tom (who she’s never actually met due to his departure after her birth when he was only 19 we discover) and his wife Joanna (Stephanie Szostak), things go from bad to worse as Apple then discovers she is pregnant from an unseen one-night stand. Due to continued circumstances while at Tom’s home that make Apple once again doubt anyone truly has love for her, she heads back to the streets and ultimately makes a choice that lands her in the hospital. Here again, she battles her hesitancies about people’s genuineness, clashing with staff and with the resident chaplain Frank (played by beloved veteran actor James Earl Jones), who FINALLY convinces her to trust him enough to keep the life growing inside her and commit to a local shelter run by a former teen runaway, and now shelter-runner, Kathy (Ann Dowd). Here, Apple still struggles to open up to love and acceptance, even now when among other girls her age and with babies themselves. Through a series of events that includes two harrowing encounters involving her desperate mother, Apple learns to trust and truly bond with her new found friends, and this is carried to a touching length by the story’s end.
Now, in and of themselves, the themes, scenarios, types of characters, and dialogue depicted here are not anything new. We’ve seen plenty of stories, whether on the big or small screen, that give us a glimpse into the tragic reality of what so many teen girls DO experience in these situations. The supporting characters here are well played, but again, I would be untruthful if I said they REALLY stuck out to me, with the exception of Rosario Dawson, who just made you want to either have SOME semblance of pity for June or more often want to see her locked up or get some SERIOUS help. For me, the real wonder here was Hudgens, who went SO against type in this film, that it made HER portrayal of a teen in this chaos more believable for me than I ever would have expected. I mean, let’s be honest, when we’re USED to Hudgens being more this or this, but suddenly she’s THIS….I really got into the story overall thanks to seeing that Hudgens has know shown she’s NOT just one-dimensional or is choosing to be stuck in the typical roles people (including me) might expect. Pretty much, most critical review of this film have been scathing, and I think on some levels, as I commented on briefly above, I can see what they’re saying. BUT……again, Hudgens just takes the character and brings you along this initially dark and ultimately inspiring journey that I felt assisted the film in being something worth checking out. As always, this is for YOUR consideration and comment. Thanks for reading and until next time!