Gimme Shelter (Roadside Attractions)
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving mistreatment, some drug content, violence and language - all concerning teens.
Starring Vanessa Hudgens, Rosario Dawson, Brendan Fraser, Stephanie Szostak, James Earl Jones, Dascha Polanco, Emily Meade, Ann Dowd, Candace Smith, Tashiana Washington, Eddie Schweighardt, Sheila Tapia, Laneya Wiles, Rachel Mattila Amberson.
Written and directed by Ron Krauss.
I’m old enough to remember those “after school specials” and the “movie of the week” TV shows that tackled tough public problems like drug abuse, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, alcoholism, drug abuse, illiteracy, and violence (did I mention drug abuse?) back in the 70s, 80s and 90s. They were usually ham-fisted, overblown dramatic fare (many of them starring the likes of Helen Hunt, Lance Kerwin and Jodie Foster – even Ben Affleck played a steroid addict in one of them), with an overabundance of moral shame on society. Such programs have migrated to places like the Lifetime cable network, where the societal undertones in the stories are a little more personal and much more likely to be based on true events. Gimme Shelter is a movie coming out in theaters this weekend, but is perhaps more suited for cable TV.
Vanessa Hudgens stars as Agnes “Apple” Bailey, a troubled teen who inexplicably cut her hair prior to running away from her drug addict, abusive mother June (Rosario Dawson). Apple runs to her estranged biological father Tom (Brendan Fraser), a wealthy Wall Street executive who lives in an upscale New Jersey neighborhood. Apple is not well-received by Tom’s wife Joanna (Stephanie Szostak), especially after discovering that she is pregnant. After a dust-up with Joanna, Apple strikes out on her own, only to end up hospitalized after crashing a drug dealer’s SUV.
While in the hospital, Apple meets Father Frank McCarthy (James Earl Jones), who sets her up to live in a shelter for pregnant teens run by the benevolent Kathy DiFiore (Ann Dowd). While there, Apple learns to love the other girls as her family, while dealing with problems created by her biological parents June and Tom.
Gimme Shelter might have been another vehicle for Hudgens to further escape her squeaky clean Disney persona, much like her obscene attempt in last year’s horrendous Spring Breakers (shudder). Instead, it’s a less-than mediocre movie with a pedestrian script void of any nuance. Hudgens deserves some credit for diving into the role with major alterations in her appearance, but in the end it all seems like it wouldn't take a lot of effort to remove the obviously fake face piercings (they tend to move – leaving no scars when they do) and make her look like a Disney Channel princess again. Despite the changes in her appearance, Hudgens ultimately fails as an actress in Gimme Shelter, right down to her slipping urban accent and the phony streetwise attitude. Her characterization comes off as having only a little more street cred than Napoleon Dynamite.
Gimme Shelter also suffers from a filtered view of reality, right down to a fairy-tale rich daddy back story and the obvious watering-down of the language. With such difficult subject matter (drugs, abuse, teen pregnancy) it seems Gimme Shelter comes from a very R-rated setting, but ends up suitable for one of those after school specials (or at least a Lifetime movie).