** (out of 5)
January 24, 2014
Vanessa Hudgens as AGNES “APPLE” BAILEY
Rosario Dawson as JUNE BAILEY
Brendan Fraser as TOM FITZPATRICK
Stephanie Szostak as JOANNA FITZPATRICK
James Earl Jones as FRANK MCCARTHY
Dascha Polanco as CARMEL
Emily Meade as CASSANDRA
Ann Dowd as KATHY
Studio: Roadside Attractions
Directed by: Ron Krauss
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I have nothing against the Heartland Film Festival. I’m sure it’s a perfectly find organization that puts together a line-up of uplifting films in a sea of violent movies from mainstream Hollywood. It’s just that most of the time that I see a movie has played there, it’s just not my cup of tea.
You see, Heartland Film Festival… it’s not you. It’s me.
I’m just a cynical bastard, see. I like a feel good movie now and then, but I find a lot of the films that make noise by playing at this festival are too much of a button-pusher for me. There’s often competently made and have decent actors in them, but they still feel like they were culled from the crust of stories before they lost their way into Hallmark movie-of-the-weeks.
I know I’m being too hard on “Gimme Shelter.” It’s just a matter of preference. While I felt the film was decently put together and definitely ambitious, I didn’t like the way it made me feel manipulated.
The story follows a teenage girl named Apple (Vanessa Hudgens). She escapes her psychotically overbearing, drug-addicted mother (Rosario Dawson) and tries to find her biological father (Brenden Fraser). She learns he not only is he a super wealthy Wall Street player, but he’s also the whitest guy on the planet. Seriously, beyond the pale nature of Fraser’s skin, he lives in a house that’s decorated almost exclusively with whites and eggshell. I half-expected the man to walk around eating a mayonaise and Wonder Bread sandwich during the film.
When it’s clear that Apple is not going to fit in with the Stepford family – in particularly butting heads with her father’s depressingly two-faced wife (Stephanie Szostak) – Apple runs away again. After ending up in the hospital after being homeless, she lands in a home for pregnant teenagers. (Did I mention that she’s pregnant? Yeah, that’s part of her sad story, as well.) There, she learns to become a family with others like her and grow up a bit before she has her baby.
There’s a mix of fine performances in this film, mostly from Hudgens who plays wildly against her standard pretty girl type and Ann Dowd as the firm but righteous woman running the shelter. However, the film is cobbled by overblown performances by Dawson and Fraser.
Additionally, the movie plays too much with extremes. The opening of the film is needlessly sleazy, playing out like a lesser version of “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.” This leads to an ending that plays out needlessly schmaltzy and corny.
I’m not taking issue with the real-life account that this story is based upon, because it seems like a harrowing experience. It’s just that the scripting and construction of the film makes the story a bit too familiar and a bit too predictable.
I don’t expect characters in a movie like this to act in the best ways, as often real life is full of foibles, but there are some truly hairbrained decisions made throughout the movie.
There is definitely an audience for this movie, but I am not it.