“Gimme Shelter” (2014)
Apple Bailey (Vanessa Hudgens) has lived a hard life, living in foster homes when her-drug addicted mother (Rosario Dawson) is in jail. Her mother sees 16 year-old Apple as her next meal ticket, grooming her to become a prostitute. Fed up with her living conditions, she decides to try and find her father (Brendan Fraser), Tom, a man she has never met. Her father, a successful stockbroker with a wife and kids, reluctantly take Apple into their very upper-class home. Apple doesn’t fit in with her new family, especially after revealing that she is pregnant and decides to run away. She then meets Father Frank (James Earl Jones), who takes her to a home for pregnant young woman run by a woman named Kathy (Ann Dowd). There she will discover how to love and be loved, finding the family she has never known.
The reason to see this film is Hudgens, who gained 15 pounds, cut her hair and wore very little makeup for the role. At the start of the film, she is almost unrecognizable. She brings a surprisingly realistic presence to the role of Apple. Hudgens has transformed herself into someone who looks as though she has had to take care of herself most of her life. You see it in the way she walks into a room, where instead of the lighthearted full of energy person Disney character that she has played in the past, she tries to blend in and not be noticed. In Apple’s world, if you stand out, you will be picked on or assaulted, so Hudgens seems to almost fold into herself as she walks or sits. As the film goes on and Apple’s situation gets better, Hudgens portrayal of Apple changes, giving her character more confidence, and much like her character’s clothing, Hudgens allows us to see Apple as shedding layers of mistrust and years of abuse.
The film has a fine supporting cast, including Ann Dowd. Playing Kathy, a former homeless woman, starts a place where young, pregnant girls could find shelter. James Earl Jones is perfect as the priest who is used to dealing with troubled teens and therefore knows how to speak to someone like Apple. Of the girls in the home (some of which were young women from actual shelters), Emily Meade stands out, portraying Cassandra, a young woman who bonds with Apple. Cassandra sees in Apple as fellow runaway who has seen her share of sorrow and abandonment, someone that can understand her aloofness and need to be on her own.
The cast, and especially Hudgens is let down by a script that is slow to develop and direction by Ron Krauss that never quite mixes with the performance of the actors to the storyline. There are plot holes throughout the film, possibly due to the fact that Apple wasn’t based on just one character.
Writer/director Krauss spent time in a shelter to add authenticity to the role of Apple. But, by making her a composite of a number of real shelter women, he stretches the character too thin. The film preaches at the audience too many times, hitting us over the head about religion instead of letting us figure out the message of the film. It’s a film that tries to hit too many points of interest, instead of focusing on one thing. That is not what kind of home you live in or how nice it is, it’s the people inside the home that makes the difference.
It’s as if Krauss wanted to make a “Boys Town” for modern day but instead made a film that seems more like a 1970’s “afterschool special”. While I feel that “Gimme Shelter” is earnest in its attempt, it never lets it’s cast show the whole, full picture, just a composite of one. My Rating: Cable
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
“Gimme Shelter” opens today at Atlanta area theatres. “Gimme Shelter” website