Gimme Shelter Review
Before we get into this review, let me just point out the obvious, this is a huge watermark moment for Vanessa Hudgens. She's been an actress I have never really cared for, her entire career. No matter if it was her annoying Disney stint, or the trying-to-be-cool moment last year with "Spring Breakers." I find her phony and almost completely devoid of talent. Then I saw "Gimme Shelter." This movie is a based on a true story, and I don't know if Apple is the same name of the woman Hudgens played or not, but her story is piercing. Hudgens plays pierced throughout. Hudgens gives a performance of a lifetime, she has a make-over that will end up in the cinematic history books for sure. She does exactly what you'd expect a young actress to do in a role like this, and its a breath-taking look.
Apple's story goes as follows; she's a pregnant teenager trying to get away from her abusive mother (Rosario Dawson). She tries to seek refuge with the father who left them, (Brendan Fraser), but those plans fall flat. After sometime living on the streets, Apple severely hurts herself and ends up in a religious hospital and is taken into a shelter for pregnant girls. At first she is hesitant to be there, but eventually warms up to the place and finds what she's always needed, a family.
"Gimme Shelter" is a harrowing film, no doubt about it. I will also say that evokes tremendous emotions from the viewers, there were many moments where I was frozen to the screen. There were many moments where tears rolled down my cheeks. Its a powerful story brought together by a powerful ensemble, and the actors do exactly what they were asked to do. The sad thing about "Gimme Shelter" is that it looked a little too much like 2009's "Precious." I felt "Gimme Shelter" made better use of its actors, and its no denying that the real people involved in this story went through something horrific yet uplifting, but that doesn't change the fact that the film feels like cliche. I wholeheartedly wish people would start treating these stories and these real people with some respect and not constantly turn each of these stories into a Halmark moment.
What is also weird about "Gimme Shelter" is that despite moving around a lot, the film feels long. For a stretch of the film, it seems like the film is going around in circles. First Apple leaves her mother to find her dad, then she contemplates leaving her dad several times. She finally leaves her dad, then finally does. Then she goes to the religious group for a long while before opening up the possibility of living with her dad again. Hey, maybe that is how the story really went, but its not written or acted out in a natural way. The creative choices in "Gimme Shelter" come off like plot convenience, which is too bad.
Rosario Dawson is absolutely crazy as June, the evil, abusive mother of Apple. This is also a great highlight for Dawson. She gets filthy in the movie, she gets nasty in the movie and she gets callous in the movie. Her appearance in the film is absolutely repulsive at times. Dawson gives one of the best performances of her career, but its tough for me not to see her as a cliche. They never turn June into a full-fledged character, she is just a mere foil for Apple to deal with every once in awhile in the movie. That's a big disappointment for me.
Brendan Fraser does well in the movie as Tom, the father that Apple never had. He is able to evoke raw emotion and he nails all of his scenes. We get a real sense of guilt from Tom, a yearning to understand the daughter he turned his back on. Its incredibly sad work, and Fraser does well with it all. I just wish he turned up more in the movie, and I wish his character wasn't such a cliche. Fraser is an odd guy, because he's a great actor who continually makes awful decisions. I think "Gimme Shelter" is a step in the right direction, but I needed more.
James Earl Jones is pretty good in this too, but he doesn't show up nearly enough. Are there any "Survivor" fans reading. If so, do you remember "Survivor: Tocantins?" The first time Coach or Tyson Apostol played? Well, Candace Smith, a contestant on that season, shows up as social worker. Its a very brief appearance but its definitely her.
"Gimme Shelter" frustrates me because its definitely a story worth telling. It has a great moral center that I am very fond of. Plus, it also happens to feature a group of actors at the top of their games. I just wish all of this effort was in service of a good movie. I just wish it wasn't a cliche, something that felt familiar, something that followed the same rules as all the other movies like this. On a good note, I hope Dawson and Hudgens go after more stuff like this, because they are absolutely capable of stuff like this.
FINAL GRADE: C+