Gimme Shelter is an ambitious and interesting film, a gritty drama that takes an unmistakable anti-abortion position without defaulting to religious boilerplate. In fact, it’s not altogether clear that this is a Catholic movie per se - there are a handful of Catholic characters and I imagine His Holy Father Pope Francis would not disapprove of either the film’s message or its execution - but it’s a few cuts above such so-called Christian films like October Baby and Unstoppable.
I don’t really know anything about the director, Ron Krauss (although imdb.com reveals that 16 years ago he directed a 9-minute short that starred Jack Lemmon),or the film’s producers (although their credits include 2 Guns, Pirates of the Caribbean, Pulp Fiction and The Human Stain, among others). They may or may not be of a religious bent. But this is one effective way to present a moral message - grounded in a visceral, recognizable reality.
Gimme Shelter is based on the true story of Kathy DiFiore, the founder of a string of shelters for homeless women in New Jersey and New York, who operates from a strong Christian perspective. (Mother Teresa once petitioned New Jersey’s governor to help keep DiFiore’s shelters open.) In the film, 16-year-old Apple (Vanessa Hudgens) - a composite character based on a number of real people - runs away from her abusive, drug-addicted mother June (Rosario Dawson). Her first stop is the New Jersey mini-manse of her biological father (Brendan Fraser),a stockbroker who is willing to incorporate her into his new family but only under certain conditions that are unacceptable to Apple, who subsequently moves on to a shelter run by DiFiore (Ann Dowd, who was terrific in 2012’s Compliance and is very good here).
While the script is predictable in its rhythms of disappointment and ultimate uplift, Krauss seems to have made a fetish of staying true to the gritty realities of the street. Both Hudgens and Dawson are practically unrecognizable, and their performances are fearless (if occasionally over the top).
Krauss has made an issue movie - an artful, richly textured issue movie that telegraphs a fondness for Italian neorealism. Gimme Shelter suffers from an unfortunate on-the-nose title that (for no discernible reason) invokes the famous 1970 Maysles brothers documentary about the Rolling Stones at Altamont. It isn’t the most original story you’ll see all year, but it isn’t a sermon. It is a witnessing.
Gimme Shelter 83 Cast: Vanessa Hudgens, Brendan Fraser, Rosario Dawson, James Earl Jones, Ann Dowd Director: Ron Krauss Rating: PG-13, for thematic material, drugs, violence and language Running time: 101 minutes
MovieStyle, Pages 33 on 01/24/2014
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