GIMME SHELTER review by Mark Walters – Vanessa Hudgens takes on a daring role

GIMME SHELTER review by Mark Walters – Vanessa Hudgens takes on a daring role


Vanessa Hudgens rose to fame at a young age starring in Disney’s HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL television series and movies, but in recent years has started taking on so more serious and even dark characters. She’s appeared in movies like SUCKER PUNCH, SPRING BREAKERS, and THE FROZEN GROUND. Her latest effort, GIMME SHELTER, may just be the most impressive of her budding career.

Agnes ‘Apple’ Bailey (Hudgens) is a troubled teen who has decided to leave the home of her drug addicted mother June (Rosario Dawson), and seeks out her long lost father Tom (Brendan Fraser), who moved on to a new life as a successful stockbroker and family man. Tom discovers Agnes is pregnant, and his wife determines taking care of his forgotten daughter isn’t going to mesh with their lifestyle. Soon Agnes gives up and heads out on her own. After a sudden and unexpected accident, she winds up the hospital where she meets Father Frank McCarthy (James Earl Jones). Going off the holy man’s advice, Agnes finds herself in a women’s shelter led by Kathy DeFiore (Ann Dowd), and befriends other girls in similar situations to her own. But as things seems to finally be working out, the young girl finds her mom is seeking her out, knowing that bringing her daughter back home will mean getting more government money to support her bad habits. One wonders if fate will ever allow Apple to find a chance for happiness.

Writer/director Ron Krauss based his film off experiences with the real life Kathy DeFiore, who became the influence for the project as well as a character in it. In Vanessa Hudgens he found an unexpected perfect choice to lead the journey. Safe to say this is anything but a glamorous role, and Hudgens shows no fear in her approach to playing Agnes. One of the first shots of the film shows Vanessa chopping off her actual hair, and her face has not a drop of make-up on it but rather various piercings and occasional scars. There’s also moments in the movie where you can tell Hudgens gained significant weight to sell the idea of her pregnancy. Her portrayal of Agnes is unpredictable and intense, and in moments where she’s coming unhinged we believe in the pain she shows. This is definitely what you call a “tour de force” performance, and displays just how strong of an actress Hudgens can be given the right material. In another tranformative role is Rosario Dawson, an actress who is normally stunningly beautiful but here looks like the worst kind of woman – the frightening result of drugs and falling in with the wrong crowd. She has multiple scenes in the story that are scary and unsettling, and becomes a fantastic villain for the piece. There’s also solid performances from Brendan Fraser, James Earl Jones, and the wonderful Ann Dowd. Even the girls in the shelter (particularly Emily Meade) are all appropriately and effectively cast.

While it’s safe to say GIMME SHELTER isn’t a film everyone will love or even relate to, it’s an interesting slice of life story that explores how rough life can be for a young woman coming from the wrong background. We see people like this everyday in real life on in the media, and everyone has come across someone like Agnes, but it’s rare we find out just exactly what their life involves. The exploration of the film makes it easy to understand why so many in this position could just give up on hopes and dreams. We also see how important the work of women’s shelters can be for troubled young teens, and the opportunities it can offer them. One thing I appreciated was how the film showed the good and the bad of what these girls go through, and how life in a shelter isn’t always perfect or endlessly happy, but it can give them a chance for hope and redemption. I also like how the film was filled with unexpected moments and unpredictable scenarios, never feeling overly formulaic or sappy, but charming and emotional when necessary.

My feelings leaving the film where that this project would be exceptional material for schools to show, as so many young girls could be one step away from finding themselves in a similar situation. I’ll admit, I found myself tearing up on more than one occasion while watching this, but in the end I’m also very glad I saw it. This is a showcase role for Hudgens, and should put Ron Krauss on the map as a director. For a January release, GIMME SHELTER is cinematic gem that deserves a look.

GIMME SHELTER opens January 24, 2014

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.