“Gimme Shelter” review

Posted: January 23, 2014 in Film Review
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BUS TO COPS:  VANESSA HUDGENS "APPLE" IN BUS 3.tifVanessa Hudgens is not in high school anymore. In “Gimme Shelter” she plays Agnes “Apple” Bailey, runaway, destitute, barely surviving on the streets, a far cry from any kind of high school life, or any kind of “normal life” for that matter. Raised (and this term is used loosely) by her drug-addicted prostitute mother (Rosario Dawson), Apple has been abused and neglected for as long as she can remember. So she takes to the streets, and away from her mother, in search of her father (Brendan Fraser), whom she only knows from an old, faded letter and the envelope it came in. Apple is a survivor, protected by the tall, thick walls she has built around herself, and she discovers her father is now a successful Wall Streeter, living the good life in Jersey. He and his new family attempt to take her in, but it’s obvious from the start that this is not a match that can work. When Apple discovers she is pregnant, she choses to keep her baby and flees the abortion clinic, hitting the streets again, knowing her Wall Street father would never allow her to live in his home with a child. She winds up in the hospital, and chaplain Father McCarthy (James Earl Jones) sets her up at a shelter for pregnant young women run by a spiritual woman named Kathy (Ann Dowd). Perhaps here, amongst others girls like herself, the ever-rebellious Apple can finally begin to tear down some of the walls surrounding her, and learn what it’s like to be a part of a family.
Gimme Shelter,” much like the character of Apple, is a tough, raw, and gritty movie, and Vanessa Hudgens delivers a standout performance, alone worthy to give the film a look. To prepare for the role, she spent time living in the very shelter on which this true story is based, meeting and interacting with the mothers living there. She also gained weight to appear more pregnant, and she altered her looks to go from a beautiful young women to one that is, well, not very attractive. As Apple’s messed-up mother, Rosario Dawson is equally impressive, and the scenes between her and Hudgens are powerful, loud, angry, abusive, and somewhat difficult to watch: powerful, gritty, raw. In fact, all the performances are top-notch, from James Earl Jones to Ann Dowd, Brendan Fraser to Stephanie Szostak, who plays Fraser’s wife.

Kudos also to the director, Ron Krauss, whose fairly short credit list is no indication of the quality of the superb work he does in “Gimme Shelter.” And the handheld cinematography by Alain Marcoen lends itself well to the film, and of particular note is the powerful scene where Apple is inside the shelter when her mother shows up. The use of the doorway and what is seen outside, and what is going on inside, is a strong visual metaphor of what is happening within the story. Great stuff.
This is a film about courage, perseverance, and finding worth in spite of what life has handed you. I would not call “Gimme Shelter” a faith-based film per se, although there are elements of scripture and spirituality, but the film does leave you looking inward, perhaps upward, to find resources to survive and thrive in today’s world. Apple does not give up when many of us would, and her determination is inspirational and a joy to watch.

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