Rated: PG-13 for mature thematic material involving mistreatment, some drug content, violence and language - all concerning teens. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: January 24, 2014 Released by: Roadside Attractions
New supportive, but heavy-handed tale is too emotionally fraught to come close to a dramatic home-run. One that however that has a special spiritually connective tissue about it to appease a certain viewership.
Gimme Shelter (also the name of a Rolling Stones hit) is too syrupy and disingenuous for its own good and seems to encourage a feel-good morality tale after many onlookers have worked their lachrymose ducts.
Starring a staunch Vanessa Hudgens (into more adult territory considering the likes of Spring Breakers and Sucker Punch after High School Musical), Brendan Fraser, Rosario Dawson and James Earl Jones it shares elements of two more resonant cinematic efforts - Precious and Juno.
Hudgens' Agnes "Apple" Bailey is a dark-bang coiffed, dirty, disheveled young woman intent on leaving her life with drug-addled, physically abusive mom June (an intensely narcissistic Dawson). The edgy, sullen Apple will be taken in by Fraser's preppy Tom Fitzpatrick, the college fellow who got June pregnant, now an elite Wall Street trader, and the father she never knew but was intent in finding out (thanks to a long ago letter). It troubles Tom's wife Joanna (Stephanie Szostak) with their two younger children around this kind of bad disposition.
Director and writer Ron Krauss can't bring much true grit to the proceedings while offering much high-minded didactic profundity as the desperate Apple is now in the situation her mother once was and Tom and Joanna try to influence a pro-choice decision upon her. Apple's journey leads her to an avuncular, caring Fr. McCarthy (easy pickings for Jones) and Kathy DiFiore (Ann Dowd) a titular proprietor and obstreperous Cassandra (Emily Meade) with whom she initially finds solace. Eventually, a warmth bonds the mother-to-be to a hardly plush and spacious facility that she curiously favors over what Tom and Joanna extend to her.
Many who'll be caught up in Hudgens' unwavering way with a transforming role (even if perhaps more rehearsal time could have been made with her dialogue) probably won't mind the scripting gapes. They include Tom's living arrangements, apparently at the same place when he was involved with June, the paternity of a child, as well as the legality of being under Kathy's domain and the use of Cassandra which again suggests one of those esteemed After-school Specials.
For a smaller-scaled independent production, an anxiously obvious Gimme Shelter stays within its technical limitations in depicting how the disadvantaged can rise above grossly negligent parenting with Fraser and Jones providing a refinement to their characterizations. Even with a heady, undeterred Hudgens, it's not the remarkable, canny melodrama that has the enduring qualities that empower so many to talk about or provide the kind of refuge so many more like Apple wish they could reach.