Gimme Shelter (2014)

Posted by Joel Copling on February 11, 2014

The only moments of real truth in "Gimme Shelter"--the only ones not dipped in gooey molasses or otherwise patronizing to a maximum degree--are the ones in which the characters are at a loss (or mostly so) for words. In one scene scored to Lana Del Rey's "Born to Die," Agnes "Apple" Bailey (Vanessa Hudgens) wanders the streets looking for shelter or warmth of some sort, ultimately finding it in a car curiously abandoned along a curb. In another, Apple has given birth to her child and simply gazes at it--the catharsis of new motherhood. In yet another, Apple's birth parents, former flames Tom (Brendan Fraser) and June (Rosario Dawson), are reunited unexpectedly, each shell-shocked by the other's reappearance.

It's just as well that these sequences are of the mostly-wordless variety, because whenever a character opens his or her mouth, they are cursed by risible dialogue as penned by director Ron Krauss and a more judgmental gaze on all who struggle than the film seems to think it has. The premise is rife with material worthy for a mature treatment: Apple has floated in and out of the foster-care system since Tom and June abandoned her as a baby, ultimately ending up back in June's custody. But she wants out, and worse, she's pregnant. She seeks out father Tom and his wife Joanna (Stephanie Szostak), the latter of whom suggests abortion, to no avail, and ultimately rests in the care of a shelter whose inhabitants are young mothers such as herself.

"Gimme Shelter" is Christian cinema with a gigantic dollop of patronizing hogwash at its center, and as such, yours truly would take the homogenized, well-meaning mediocrity of 2006's "Facing the Giants" over this trite mess any day. Pretending to be gritty but resembling a third-rate Lifetime Movie Network feature removed of any sublety (beyond the three aforementioned sequences, which admittedly add up to perhaps ten minutes of its endless 101), it also manages the feat of removing any urgency in Hudgens' performance, hailed as "brave" by some but irreparably damaged by the over-egged dialogue that she must utter. The only actor, indeed, to transcend the material is Fraser, who hasn't been this good since 2005's "Crash." Otherwise, one needn't bother with this claptrap.

Film Information

Vanessa Hudgens (Agnes "Apple" Bailey), Rosario Dawson (June Bailey), Brendan Fraser (Tom Fitzpatrick), James Earl Jones (Frank McCarthy), Stephanie Szostak (Joanna Fitzpatrick), Dascha Polanco (Carmel), Emily Meade (Cassandra), Candace Smith (Marie Abeanni), Ann Dowd (Kathy), Tashiana Washington (Destiny/Princess), Eddie Schweighardt (Dustin), Rachel Mattila (Nicky "Pink Friday"), Sheila Tapia (Officer Ganz), Elyse Kratchman (Alexandra), Laneya Wiles (Jasmine).

Directed and written by Ron Krauss.

Rated PG-13 (mature thematic material involving mistreatment, drug content, violence, language).

101 minutes.

Released on January 24, 2014.