Vanessa Hudgens continues her quest to prove she’s decidedly not a squeaky clean Disney Channel star anymore. In Gimme Shelter she is Apple, a teenager dealing with a childhood where she’s been in and out of often abusive foster case and has a junkie mother (Rosario Dawson) who only cares about the welfare check she brings in.
Apple runs away to find the father she never knew (Brendan Fraser), but when that doesn’t go well and she discovers that she’s pregnant, she starts to feel life on the streets may be her only option – until she finds potential salvation when a priest (James Earl Jones) tells her about a home for teen moms.
The world of film is often criticised for being left wing and liberal, even if half of American media is about how wonderful it is to put holes in things with guns, and everyone who isn’t the middle class is a murderer, junkie or prostitute. Nevertheless at least on the surface there is a tendency towards the liberal on social issues, but Gimme Shelter is rather more right wing, with an anti-abortion, Christian (and rather anti-poor) slant.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but Gimme Shelter’s problem is that after setting up a very difficult problem, its solution is far too easy. Apple has severe emotional issues including a complete inability to trust anyone (which is not particularly helped by the fact she’s living an incredibly melodramatic existence), but apparently if you put her in a teen home for five minutes with Jesus hanging around in the background, those problems disappear almost overnight, without much in the way of explanation.
Despite its best efforts it never quite comes across as true – as if we’re being sold the rather convenient side of this story. I’m not saying more left wing movies don’t do the same with their pet ideas, but it doesn’t suddenly make sense and seem okay if you’re doing it from the other side of the debate.
The performances are pretty good though, particularly Rosario Dawson as Apple’s monster of a mother. She is a slightly OTT grotesque who plays into boogie man idea of the poor believe welfare is the ticket to the easy life, but that’s the script’s issues not the actress’. Hudgens is also pretty good, although can’t quite overcomes the weaknesses in the script.
Overall Verdict: Gimme Shelter is close to being pretty good, but it’s so keen on making its point that it forgets to take us there in a way that actually feels true.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac