Directed by: Ron Krauss
Cast: Vanessa Hudgens, Rosario Dawson, Ann Dowd, James Earl Jones
Running Time: 1 hr 40 mins
Release Date: January 24, 2014
PLOT: When a runaway pregnant teen (Hudgens) is rejected by her previously absent biological father (Fraser), she finds a new place to live.
WHO’S IT FOR? If you’re curious about what Vanessa Hudgens looks like trying to win your drama kudos, Gimme Shelter is worth a look. Similarly, if you like easygoing bottlings of spirit-lifters, Gimme Shelter has your prescription.
Can you judge a movie by the weepy Celine Dion song that plays during the credits? For Gimme Shelter, a tale of a pregnant teen lost in the “system,” such is about half true. Not at all related to the Rolling Stones song which is a phrase also never uttered in this story, Gimme Shelter is a clash of sincerity and insincerity, where its large artistic license to a wishfully uplifting true story can be used for good, or for ruthless schmaltz.
One of its sincere angles can be found in Hudgens’ performance. It’s a mostly external role, certainly with the appeal of getting grimed up as a bid to be taken seriously as an actress as a whole. There’s a wavering accent thrown in as well, amongst a grungy appearance. But Hudgens, when looking at her character as a teenager and not disposing of her as an archetype, gives Apple a strong, definitive sense of angst. Some of this is represented in moments which involve Apple embodying the movie’s idea about judging others on appearances; we watch her try to manage the treatment of impatient nurses or selfish mother figures, only to be treated condescendingly. This is where Hudgens’ intent on recreating a broad story feels the most believable.
That being said, Gimme Shelter’s brightest light might be a supporting turn from Ann Dowd. Great as she is known to be, she provides the movie’s strongest moment with a monologue about trying to hold onto her own dignity while she was previously in a life situation similar to Apple’s. She is authoritative, but clearly conceivable to what she represents, and helps package the story’s wish of second chances with stalwart earnestness. When the film focuses on a group of girls in a shared situation of forced maturity, Dowd’s words protect the movie’s representation of teen motherhood from fears of dramatic manipulation. Simultaneously, she provides a tangible example of the heroic work that becomes an uplifting factor to witness within this movie.
While writer/director Ron Krauss, might have two at least decent performances to work with, he is too raw with other characters. James Earl Jones, for example, is too angelically pristine, even for a priest character. Brendan Fraser as well, is dopey and tough to take seriously, even as a father who can’t control the actions of his abandoned biological daughter.
The worst, however, is a rabid performance from Rosario Dawson, who uses her character’s cracked-out teeth to chomp on scenery as much as possible, with no taming from Bass to be seen. Popping in and out of Apple’s journey of self redemption, she initially starts as a manageable take on Apple’s potential future which she represents, kicking off Gimme Shelter with a slightly disturbing physical confrontation between her and Hudgens. But Dawson later shows her true colors to be a cheap dramatic device, an overflowing Debbie Downer who has ridiculous timing, and always seems to know where Apple can be found. Dawson obviously (and rightfully so) wasn’t gunning for an awards-friendly type of glamorous drug addict, but she should be thankful the Razzies only really start paying attention once the summer begins.
For a story that does have the ability to connect to an audience, it is frustrating that Gimme Shelter reverts to melodramatic simplicity, mushy moments and desperate drama. But by its conclusion, one that stands as a perfect mix of this movie’s schmaltz with its sincerity, such a quality becomes expected. Even when the film is trying to argue about a gray quality within humans, its drama comes with a specifically black or white bluntness. Such makes the film easy to follow – if you enjoy not fully watching things you’re paying for – but similarly easy to dispose.
FINAL SCORE: 4/10