Some terrific acting makes this one well worth your time.
Gimme Shelter is not an especially easy movie to watch nor is it fun in any way. After all, the main character, Apple (Vanessa Hudgens) is a teen that’s been through it all—physical abuse, sexual abuse, repeated foster homes and a mother with less maternal instincts than a rabid hamster. And, to make it even worse, she’s pregnant! One thing is for sure, she cannot stay with her vicious mother (Rosario Dawson)—so the film begins with her running away in search of her father (Brendan Fraser). The problem is that her father has never met her—and his new life is very ordered and his wife isn’t especially interested in becoming step-mom to a tattooed, pierced and angry young mother-to-be. So, after an abortive stay with her dad and his family, Apple feels compelled to leave—living on the streets and hoping that somehow it will all work out for the best.
Eventually, this unwanted young lady ends up coming in contact with an old priest (James Earl Jones) and he wants to help. He knows of a home for pregnant teens and convinces her to give it a try. This is no small task, as Apple has learned over her short life that you really cannot trust anyone. While the place turns out to be pretty nice, Apple just cannot accept that anyone could help her without some sort of agenda and you wonder if she’ll stay put and have her baby there or, perhaps, on some street corner. Her first instinct is to just run.
I really had to admire the script for Gimme Shelter, as it manages to seem a lot truer than most stories about troubled teens. Missing are many of the clichés you might think would be and the film can be favorably compared to another great film about a troubled teen, Precious. And, as a retired social worker and psychotherapist, I have worked on a lot of cases that were similar to this one and it comes off as believable and compelling. It’s not always pleasant viewing but it is a high quality film—one you have to see to appreciate.
In addition to a dandy script, what really impressed me was the acting. While Hudgens is in her mid-20s, she managed to pull off a convincing portrait of a scared and almost animalistic teen—and is a much meatier role than she’s usually known for doing. Dawson is also a standout. While she was only in the film here and there, she managed to play an incredibly nasty character with great zest and was very convincing. For both roles, both actresses had to make themselves as non-glamorous as possible in order to be true to their characters. Additionally, Fraser’s role is a lot more interesting and compelling compared to other roles he’s taken such as George of the Jungle and Furry Vengeance (uggh!).
Gimme Shelter is not always pleasant, but it is a film well worth your time. It’s also a film well worth seeing with your teen, as the film has a lot you and your kids could talk about when it’s complete. Overall, there’s really nothing I didn’t like about this film—I just don’t know if such an earthy and not always pleasant theme will attract many viewers. I sure know it deserves a chance.
Review by Lead Entertainment Writer & Film Critic, Martin Hafer