Gimme Shelter depicts the story of Agnes "Apple" Bailey (Hudgens) a tough, street-wise teen who flees life with her drug addicted mother to find the wealthy father she's never known. But when her father's new prim & proper family find out Apple is pregnant, she is pressured to conform to their expectations and runs away again. Apple must rely on her own survival skills on the streets, until she meets the kindly Father McCarthy who helps direct her to a shelter for pregnant teens. Apple's unbreakable spirit enables her to fight against the odds to find redemption, and ultimately create a family to finally call her own.
Vanessa Hudgens has certainly come a long way since her days in the family-friendly ‘High-School Musical‘ movies. She's fairly unrecognizable in Ronald Krauss’s film ‘Gimme Shelter‘. It definitely takes some gigantic balls to title your film after one of the best documentaries ever made on the Rolling Stones, but like that one, this film too is also based on true events. ‘Gimme Shelter‘ is a rough movie to get through, but it has a silver lining like a Disney movie. While some of the instances and pieces of dialogue are too “on the nose’ for my taste, I expect fans of Hudgens to check out one of their favorite Disney stars in an unexpected role.
Hudgens plays 16-year-old Agnes ‘Apple’ Bailey, who looks like she hasn’t showered for fifteen days, and decides at the beginning of the movie to cut her own hair very short. Hey eyes tell a very depressing story, as she has spent most of her life moving from foster home to foster home, while constantly being physically and verbally abused by almost everyone she comes in contact with. But this is not the fate she sees for herself, and she makes a conscious decision to move out of that life. But when she tries to move in with her sadistic drug-fueled prostitute mother (Rosario Dawson, the best part of the movie), Apple finally realizes she is on her own and sets out to find the father she has never met before.
Her father is a very successful Wall-Street executive, played by Brendan Fraser, (who seems to not know why he is in this movie, but anyway...) who has a giant house and a new family, as he had Apple when he was in his mid-teens. As you can imagine, things don’t mix well when Apple shows up unexpectedly. Apple finds out she is pregnant and her father and step mother immediately take her to an abortion clinic, but after seeing the image of her fetus, she wants to keep it. She gets involved in a car accident and ends up in the hospital, where the hospital chaplain (James Earl Jones) befriends her and sends her to a religious shelter for pregnant teens. Maybe it’s here that Apple can find what she has always wanted – a family. At least that's what Krauss wants to tell us.
The lady who runs this shelter is named Kathy DiFiore (Ann Dowd), and is in fact a real person, and this film is based on her stories, but she takes the backseat to this movie and it is Hudgens’s character Apple who we journey with. The three big flaws with ‘Gimme Shelter‘ are its script, score, and execution. The screenplay just hits you like a hammer too hard in too many places, and never gives you the opportunity to react to or figure things out for yourself. And the score is way too dramatic, and comes across as far too sappy. This could have been a better film if the director just let these things play out normally, but instead there is way too much emphasis on what we are supposed to feel and when.
The acting however is solid throughout. Hudgens gives a brilliant performance of intense anger and rage, but all the while she is just an emotional and scarred child who wants to be loved. Her struggle and performance are great and she has come a long way since ‘High School Musical’. I wish James Earl Jones had a meatier role here, but he plays the gentle grandfather just fine. Rosario Dawson is the true star here and plays a horrific mother perfectly. She is truly scary.
‘Gimme Shelter‘ is a tough movie to get through, as our main character truly goes through some horrendous moments. This film might be too “on the nose’ for me, but it’s worth a look. And I can’t believe that with its title, the Rolling Stones’ song was never heard.
'Gimme Shelter' comes with an excellent 1080p HD transfer presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The detail here is extremely vivid and sharp throughout. Not only are the closeups well-defined, but the wider shots and lower lit scenes also reveal exceptional detail in textures, revealing makeup, blemishes, scars, and individual hairs on the actor's faces. I was shocked that this low budget indie drama would look this pristine.
The colors all seem to be brought down a bit, probably due to the somber mood of the story, but none-the-less they pop off the screen with a realistic look. The skin tones all look natural and the black levels are consistently deep and inky. I did not notice any compression issues of any kind or any other flaws other than a speck of something during one of the scenes. Other than that, this video presentation is top notch.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix that sounds great. The dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to understand, and free of any pops, cracks, or hissing. The sound effects are lively when they pop up and pack a punch during a couple of the action sequences involving a car crash and attack.
The ambient noises of people chattering and city sounds come through the rear speakers often as well. The score and soundtrack boasts the highs and lows very nicely, giving this release a wide dynamic range. The sound effects also sound very realistic and make full use the surrounds. This is not the loudest audio mix I've heard, but for an indie drama, it does just fine.
The Making of 'Gimme Shelter' (HD, 13 mins.) - Here is a look at the making of the film with interviews with cast and crew as they discuss the origins of this true story and how they went about making the film. Even the real life person the film was based on is here for a quick interview.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 6 mins.) - Here are a few deleted scenes with optional director commentary. There is not much to see here other than one alternate take on a violent scene. The optional commentary here does not sound very good.
'Gimme Shelter' has some truly difficult moments to get through as this is in no way a feel good movie. It might be too cheesy for some people, but if you get through that, you might find a decent movie in the mix. Plus Hudgens and Dawson turn in amazing performances. The video and audio presentations are top quality here with two sub par extras. This is definitely worth a look.