Review: "Gimme Shelter"
Release Date: Jan. 24, 2014
Running Time: 101 minutes
While thematically unrelated to the Rolling Stones 1969 protest song of the same name, the faith-based Gimme Shelterdoes find its young, wounded protagonist at war—with herself, those inclined to lend her a hand, and those seeking to exploit what little she possesses. Vanessa Hudgens stars as Apple, a pregnant underage teen who leaves her abusive junkie mother to seek out a better life with the wealthy father she barely knows. When that fails to work out, Apple’s left to fend for herself on the unforgiving streets of New Jersey. That is, until she’s accepted at a shelter for homeless pregnant teens and new mothers. Gimme Shelter is reportedly based on the experiences of a girl who stayed at Several Sources Shelters. Compliance’s Ann Dowd plays Several Sources Shelters founder Kathy DiFiore, who is one of only two adults inGimme Shelter who wants nothing from Apple other than what’s best for the expectant mother. The other is James Earl Jones’ wise priest. As empathetic as Dowd makes DiFiore in Gimme Shelter, and there’s no reason to believe DiFiore isn’t so in real life, writer/director Ronald Krauss is guilty of turning Apple’s affecting story into 106-minute infomerical for Several Sources Shelters. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Several Source Shelters seems to do good work for the girls it helps, and while DiFiore is depicted as a woman of strong Christian belief, Gimme Shelter doesn’t find her pushing her faith on Apple or the audience. It just that Gimme Shelter sends a contradictory message about the importance of raising a child within a strong family unit. It presents the shelter as a safe haven for a young woman who needs help learning how to care for and raise her child. On the other hand, the film shows nothing but contempt for Apple’s parents. That’s understandable in the case of Apple’s mother, whom Rosario Dawson portrays with a manipulative streak and a hair-trigger temper. Apple’s father, though, is another matter. While Brendan Fraser is hopelessly bland as Apple’s Father, he at least displays a genuine sense of concern toward the daughter he’s barely seen. And that’s the difference with Apple’s father and mother— Fraser’s Wall Streeter is willing to help; he just doesn’t know how. Granted, he messes things up by scheduling an appointment for Apple to have an abortion, thereby taking the decision out of the hands of the one person who should decide whether she wants to keep her baby. Now, Gimme Shelter doesn’t come out and loudly state its position on abortion, but you can read between the lines given how the film literally and figuratively slams the door in the face of Apple’s father when he comes to her begging for forgiveness. There are times when a person must solely rely on the comfort of strangers or, as in the case of Gimme Shelter, the benevolent DiFiore. Yet to bar a parent, on the basis of one mistake, from an emotional fragile woman’s support system seems arrogant and unnecessarily punitive. If anything can be taken away from Gimme Shelter, it’s that Hudgens is doing an admirable job of distancing herself from her Disney Channel roots. Unlike her High School Musical dance partner Zac Efron, whose recent dramatic roles still take advantage of his squeaky clean good looks, Hudgens is taking on serious-minded roles that push her to her acting limits and require to look like she was hit by a trunk and left for dead on the side of a highway. OK, you can’t say that about Spring Breakers, but it along with Gimme Shelter and last year’s Nicolas Cage-John Cusack serial-killer thriller The Frozen Ground has given some impressive moments from Hudgens the course of a year. As Apple, Hudgens counterbalances her runaway’s resiliencies with a vulnerability that comes from being abusive, neglected, and abandoned. It’s not fair to say that Gimme Shelter wastes Hudgens’ emotionally gripping performance. It's just that writer/director Ronald Krauss’ doesn’t put Hudgens to the right use. He’s less concerned with building a story around Apple than promoting a cause. A worthy cause but a cause nonetheless.
Aired: Jan. 23, 2014
Web site: http://gimmeshelterthemovie.com/