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There’s something about falling in love in with a movie before seeing it; it has everything that makes for a successful movie: committed actors, a gripping storyline and great use of the makeup department. Then something happens when one actually sees the movie–it’s as if everything was simply a deceitful lie.  Gimme Shelter is the embodiment of this.

From the very beginning, Gimme Shelter has so much going for it.  In the opening sequence, there’s the gritty streets of New York that screams 1980’s: depressing hallways, graffiti filled subways and suicidal housing projects. Then there’s Vanessa Hudgens who has broken out of her gleeful High School Musical days standing in a grimy bathroom that feels like a STD.  Hugdens is a sight to behold, as she massacres the gorgeous long locks that made her Gabriella Montez, she is now Apple…yes just Apple.

Apple is a teenage girl who has been passed around from one foster home to another.  When the audience finds her, the weight of the world is on her shoulders as she decides to run away from her meth addicted mother, played incredibly by Rosario Dawson, to search for her father. Armed with several dollars in her pockets and a letter from her father, Apple has no idea how the consequences of her actions will forever alter her future.

There’s a cast of characters, both loving and self-centered, that come in and out of Apple’s life from Father McCarthy, played sincerely by James Earl Jones, who is her saving grace, to social workers who could care less about her well-being.

However, the movie is really about the story of Kathy DiFiore, who created a Christian shelter for pregnant teenagers who want to be a mother to their children. It is here where the movie really starts to flourish, although it’s not seen until halfway through as the audience is forced to endure an over-the-top storyline that forces emotions from both the actors and the audience. Yes, Apple has a terrible life, but none of this is seen, it’s just told. Other characters, like her dad (played by Brendan Fraser), are never fleshed out.   Her father is a bad guy in Apple’s eye, but it’s never shown why; he’s just labeled that way because of the letter that Apple carries.

By the time the movie is halfway over DiFiore feels like a sub-plot when in fact this is the driving force of the movie and not another step to get to the end of the movie, which is a shame. DiFiore is played by Ann Dowd, who gives a compassionate and powerful performance with such ease and grace; it doesn’t even feel like she’s acting. She comes across as one of the few genuine characters who cares for not only Apple, but for all of humanity.  HAIRCUT MIRROR:  VANESSA HUDGENS "APPLE" SHORT HAIR IN MIRROR.tif

The scenes between the teenage mothers are one of the few that don’t feel forced. The teens appear to be handpicked off the streets; each line they deliver and each movement they make seems to be ad-libbed instead of scripted. The audience doesn’t know much about them but their history is not needed because it feels so familiar. They have love for each other and become the family that Apple needs and deserves.

Despite the movie manipulating the audience’s emotions, Hudgens carries this movie on her overweight shoulders like a pro. The makeup and the dedication are evident from the piercings to the infected lips. Her skin is caked and swollen, showcasing a lifetime of emotional and physical scars. While Dawson isn’t the main focus of the film, her acting and makeup is done so superbly, that she’s completely unrecognizable and it feels like she’s acting from her gut–her very soul.

The main problem with the film, aside from forcing the audience’s emotions, is its paint-by-numbers script. There is nothing new about this movie that hasn’t been told before. Everyone knows the tragic life of living “in the system”. There’s rape, molestation, abuse, heartache and hopelessness but in the end, does anyone care? The audience cries because they’re supposed to feel sad, not because they want too.  In fact, they could be crying because of how the movie is rather emotionally draining.

While there are only a few scenes between Dawson and Hudgens, they showcase the ugliness and the painful relationship between the two.  However, the script is too generic and everyone’s feelings are presented too cleanly. They do the best they can to make their scenes fresh and original, but it’s just not enough.

This movie works wonderfully as a first draft.  There are many elements from Christianity to the broken foster system but the themes and script is never fully developed.  It’s jagged, rushing from one place to the next, lacking a good foundation.  Sadly, nothing can save Gimme Shelter; it’s a victim of itself and that is where the true sadness of this film lies.

About The Author

Dana Abercrombie
Brand Manager

Former genius and a woman of mystery and power, whose power is exceeded only by her mystery, Dana Abercrombie has been watching since birth (yes birth...we did say "genius"). Despite her secret desire of wanting to give it all up to become a gorgeous billionaire, Dana is most passionate about films often times getting in many heated debates resulting in being thrown out of many gatherings. Despite having a degree in English AND Journalism (multi-tasking FTW!) from the University at Albany-SUNY, she is currently interested in perusing a degree at Yale Law School, because one should never give up on a dream of becoming a gorgeous billionaire...and knowing how to sue someone as a result of those heated debates.