‘Gimme Shelter,’ reviewed by Marshall Fine


Based on a true story, “Gimme Shelter” is one of those films that means well: It’s earnest, filled with the spirit of forgiveness – indeed, it wouldn’t seem out of place on the Lifetime network.

But this story about an abused, homeless and unwed pregnant teen – played with undisciplined fervor by Vanessa Hudgens – seems very boilerplate, as though writer-director Ron Krauss was working from a stencil about all of the social ills facing the poor and at-risk young people.

It often feels like that familiar plotline – a teen overreacting to a misunderstanding, which leads to a bad decision – that seems to drive dramas like this. Bad decisions lead to a run-in with the law, which triggers a stretch of rehabilitation/punishment. The latter offers a new alternative and path in life to the teen in question – who must find her way past obstacles from the past to reach this new future.

The teen here is Agnes (Hudgens), who calls herself Apple (take that, Gwyneth). She’s stuck in a tiny urban SRO in a hellish Newark landscape with her drug-addicted mother (Rosario Dawson). So Apple runs off, grabbing a ride to the suburbs, in search of the biological father, Tom (Brendan Fraser), she doesn’t know. She’s pregnant but the hook-up was a one-time thing (“The first time,” she admits ruefully). She hopes that this father will take her in and let her live with his wife and two spoiled children in their hedge-fund-supported McMansion.

Wifey (Stephanie Szostak) has a problem with that. She tries to convince Apple to have an abortion, taking her to a doctor. Instead, Apple runs off, steals Wifey ’s car and crashes it, winding up cuffed to a bed in a hospital room.

This review continues on my website.