Gimme Shelter (Roadside Attractions, PG-13)

GimmeShelter 75I really wish I liked it. But man, I don’t.

GimmeShelter 500

There’s a certain kind of movie that you sort of want to like, which movie often deals with contemporary social issues, and whose heart is generally in the right place, but in the end the film is so bad that you wind up feeling kind of sorry for it. The new Vanessa Hudgens vehicle, Gimme Shelter, is one of this type of movie. And it’s a fairly extreme case, at that—aside from having its heart in the right place and dealing with important issues, it has a strong cast, and I really wish I liked it. But man, I don’t.

Hudgens plays Agnes “Apple” Bailey, a pregnant 16-year old whose mother June (Rosario Dawson) is abusive, and whose father Tom (Brendan Fraser) is rich and loving, but requires some tracking down and is perhaps too unlike Apple to really understand what she’s going through. After a false start or two with each parent, Apple winds up in a homeless shelter for pregnant or young-mother teens that is run by an oozingly good woman named Kathy (Ann Dowd, who was so good in 2012’s Compliance). Here she finds the place she belongs, tries to straighten up, and gets and gives the support she’s long needed. You know the story.

And as I said, that’s all fine; Gimme Shelter is based on a true story, and I’m all for raising awareness of cases like this. But really, the movie just doesn’t work. The script is pat and improbable (despite that it’s based on a true story), all the while being heavy-handed and speechy. There are a lot of groaners that will test the patience of even those who are most receptive to stories like this; one that caught me particularly off guard has Kathy explaining to Apple that she was homeless 20 years ago, but then got a job, as if that’s some huge solution—oh! All homeless people have to do is get a job, and that will solve all of their problems! Why has no one ever thought of that before?! Elsewhere we have multiple characters in their teens who grew up in foster homes and were abused, but when they get pregnant they don’t seem to even consider getting an abortion. Of course that’s a divisive issue, but it seems like at least some of these girls would have at least seriously considered that option.

I appreciate Hudgens branching out and trying to challenge herself as an actress—Apple isn’t necessarily an easy role, and if nothing else it’s certainly an unglamorous one. She does fine in it, I guess, but I don’t see this performance being a gateway to better things for her. Really, none of the cast is at fault—pretty much all of the issues with the film can be tied directly back to writer/director Ron Krauss’ bad script, but a bad script is all that’s really necessary to make a bad movie. | Pete Timmermann


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