‘Gimme Shelter’ Review

Published 1 year ago by , Updated October 17th, 2014 at 9:15 pm,

gimme shelter review vanessa hudgens Gimme Shelter Review

Whether or not you agree with Krauss’ political/philosophical leanings in Gimme Shelter, the film does generally have its heart in the right place.

In Gimme Shelter, Vanessa Hudgens plays Agnes “Apple” Baily, a teenager who’s spent most of her life being passed around (and sometimes abused) by foster caretakers and her drug-addicted mother, June (Rosario Dawson). Apple finally decides to run away from home and contact her biological father – Wall Street broker Tom Fitzpatrick (Brendan Fraser) – in the hope that he will support her long enough for her to land on her own two feet, get a job and start living on her own.

However, when it turns out that Apple is pregnant and Tom disagrees with her decision to keep the baby, the former takes off, eventually getting in an accident and landing in the hospital. There, she meets the kindly Father McCarthy (James Earl Jones), who convinces Apple to stay at a shelter for pregnant teen girls, run by a spiritual woman named Kathy (Ann Dowd). There, the residents provide Apple with the kind of familial love and support that she’s never experienced – but will her mother let her go so easily?

Inspired by a true story (the actual people are shown during the end credits), Gimme Shelter is a work of gritty social realism that draws from compelling real-life events, but fails to properly explore the many important issues that it raises – much less get at the narrative’s deeper implications – and thus, the film mostly amounts to two hours of half-baked sermonizing and unsophisticated melodrama.

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Rosario Dawson in ‘Gimme Shelter’

Much of the fault for that lies with Gimme Shelter writer/director Ron Krauss (Amexica), whose script work is clunky and lazy, in general. Krauss takes a stance on a number of polarizing discussion topics (class-based privilege, abortion, faith), but he often skips on providing a proper or even-handed argument to support his positions. Furthermore, from a pure storytelling perspective, Krauss’ script often “cheats” and provides the expected cathartic payoff without showing the necessary setup first. Indeed, several character arcs and subplots progress from point A to B, but because it usually doesn’t demonstrate how they got there, the film provides viewers with little reason to be emotionally invested.

That’s a shame too, since Vanessa Hudgens doesn’t at all embarrass herself with her performance as Apple. While Hudgens has already taken steps to shed her Disney Channel good-girl image (see: Sucker Punch, Spring Breakers, etc.), Gimme Shelter is her first attempt at getting beneath the surface of a sympathetic, yet volatile and very damaged person. Even when she’s not fishing scraps out of dumpsters or scowling with her face covered in grime, Hudgens manages to convey a fair amount through simple facial tics and expressions; if she starts picking betters scripts and directors to work with, she just might have a future as a serious actress.

gimme shelter james earl jones vanessa hudgen 570x294 Gimme Shelter Review

James Earl Jones and Vanessa Hudgens in ‘Gimme Shelter’

For the most part, Krauss avoids exploitative filmmaking techniques – save when he frames Hudgens and Dawson’s bruised and battered faces in close-up for easy dramatic effect – instead relying on simple framing and variety in edits (quick cuts, long takes) to create an intimate atmosphere that keeps the focus on the characters and pulls viewers into their troubled, yet insulated world. In Gimme Shelter, Krauss doesn’t really manage to create a real feel of time and place, but that seems to be the point – that these events could just as well be happening today as they could in the past.

Despite often being saddled with pompous monologues or hokey sequences to act out, the older and more experienced character actors in the cast (James Earl Jones and Ann Dowd, to be exact) prove able to bring out the real humanity in their otherwise flat characters. The same holds true for Brendan Fraser and Rosario Dawson – the latter stuck performing with grime-covered teeth out of a campy horror movie – as they each get a scene or two to flex their acting muscles.

gimme shelter movie brendan frasier vanessa hudgens 570x294 Gimme Shelter Review

Brendan Fraser and Vanessa Hudgens in ‘Gimme Shelter’

The rest of the supporting cast includes a handful of faces that you might recognize without knowing the person’s name, like Stephanie Szostak (Iron Man 3), Dascha Polanco (Orange is the New Black), and Emily Meade (Trespass). While they’re all fine in their limited capacity, they’re not given much to do – and when they are, their scenes usually end up going nowhere and result in dangling plot threads or unearned payoffs (as mentioned before).

Regardless of whether or not you agree with Krauss’ political/philosophical leanings in Gimme Shelter, the film does generally have its heart in the right place and it aspires to shed light on social problems that aren’t easy to talk about. Unfortunately, that and a couple of respectable performances are the only saving graces in a movie that feels like the final result of a C-grade director having watched Precious and decided that he could do better.

In case you’re still undecided, here is the trailer for Gimme Shelter:

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Gimme Shelter is now playing in theaters. It is 100 minutes long and Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving mistreatment, some drug content, violence and language – all concerning teens.

Our Rating:

2 out of 5

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  1. Not surprised that this movie wasn’t any good although I am surprised that Vanessa Hudgens does ok. I thought she was horrible in Spring Breakers, then again that movie was beyond bad.

  2. Just saw it. Admittedly not a superb movie, but I was satisfied. It’s an uplifting story, and I don’t think it was trying to be something it wasn’t.

  3. the final result of a C-grade director having watched Precious and decided that he could do better.



  4. Just watched the movie, it was gritty and simply GREAT!!! Don’t understand reviewers. Did not expect the movie to be great and did not expect critic to be so blind. Maybe the critic has a political difference. UMMM????

  5. Strongly disagree. It’s about a young girl’s struggle to find her place in a chaotic and turbulent world. Superb performances – particularly by Hudgens – hold the film up. It’s compassionate without being sappy, inspiring without being over the top. Highly recommend.

  6. I liked this movie, and I highly recommend going to see it.

    I admit that it was not high on my list of movies to see. The subject matter didn’t interest me, and I was afraid that it might be like one of those preachy after-school TV specials that I had grown up on (so now you know that I am in an older generation.)

    But the time schedule was good, and I had already seen the other movies that I had really wanted to see. Also, the Janis Joplin-esque movie poster finally drew me into the screen room.


    James Earl Jones was good. I generally am tired of James Earl Jones, and I know that he is like the patron saint of black people, and since Bing Crosby is unavailable I suppose its alright to have James Earl Jones at least as a positive role model for blacks, and actually in this film he was alright and I had no problem with him at all.

    Brendan Fraser Was excellent. He represented all of the smooth talking, arrogant, holier-than-thou shallow plastic rich people I know too well.


    Emily Meade was fantastic in her limited devilish role, so typical of many teenage ladies.

    Rosario Dawson was good as the shallow plastic selfish crackhead.

    Vanessa Hudgens was excellent in her dramatic portrayal of her character. The film really was told from her perspective as a willful wild mom who only wants shelter for her and her baby against all these shallow plastic brutal smooth-talking holier-than-thou who want to run her life to make themselves feel better about their own stupid shallow lives.

    Imagery was simple but good. Venessa wore that wretched hooded sweatshirt the way most misunderstood young people do, and when she put on the black jacket at the shelter, that seemed to represent the true love, acceptance, and sheltering that surrounding assaults can’t enforce, money can’t buy, and smooth-talking can’t deliver.

    For people who hate being told what to do, I say, ignore the negative critics, listen to your heart, and go see and decide for yourself.

    • The reviewer Sandy Schaefer called it ” two hours of half-baked sermonizing and unsophisticated melodrama”, which it certainly was not. My reaction was the same as yours. Yeah, there were a few weak moments, but even Spielberg’s Lincoln had a few weak moments. Your point about the black jacket at the shelter was very good. I felt the same way, but wasn’t sure exactly why.

  7. Not the best movie of the month. But not the worst either. The review seemed too harsh to me. It was a decent attempt by the director with good performances by the cast. Vanessa Hudgens was impressive in some scenes. Although in the hands of a better director the movie would have been something to remember.

  8. It was a great movie but looking at Rosario Dawson’s teeth really annoyed me lol seriously tho