‘Shelter’ a safe place for Vanessa Hudgens

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Wednesday, January 22, 2014 6:32pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

A furious 16-year-old girl cuts her hair in big, violent gestures. This is how we meet Apple, the messed-up heroine of “Gimme Shelter,” just before she escapes her mother’s grungy, violent household.

Along with cutting her ties to her drug-addled, irresponsible mother, this hair-chopping could also be read as a symbolic act on the part of the actress playing Apple. Vanessa Hudgens found teen stardom as one of Disney’s “High School Musical” breakouts, and taking on movies like this (and last year’s cuckoo “Spring Breakers”) is a way of graduating to a different kind of professional status.

As a career-changer, “Gimme Shelter” is great for Hudgens. She’s completely convincing in it, a dark ball of coiled anger and inchoate acting-out. The rest of the movie doesn’t live up to her performance.

Apple does get away from her monster of a mother (Rosario Dawson), a stereotype of the conniving “welfare queen.” Writer-director Ronald Krauss isn’t terribly nuanced when it comes to painting the outlines of the supporting characters.

Finding her biological father (a pasty-looking Brendan Fraser) doesn’t prove much better for Apple; he’s a Wall Street broker, married with kids, living in an antiseptic planned-community environment.

Apple finally finds some actual shelter in the form of a home for pregnant teens. This, in fact, is the movie’s “based on a true story” connection — “Gimme Shelter” was inspired by a real place, and the real person, Kathy DiFiore, who opened her home as a shelter in 1981.

Ann Dowd, who was memorable as the bullied fast-food worker in “Compliance,” plays DiFiore with a lived-in humanity.

There’s also James Earl Jones, puttering around as a honey-voiced priest who lets Apple know that the Bible holds the answers.

The film tries not to get too overt in showing its anti-abortion purpose, although that seems to be a large part of the reason for its existence. Not much clouds the black-and-white lines here, although Apple’s final decisions lead to a somewhat surprising ending.

The straight-on emotionalism of Hudgens’ performance is what keeps most scenes going, so at least the movie has that through-line.

As far as the rest is concerned, the glib appropriation of a Rolling Stones title gives you some indication of this film’s tendency to take shortcuts.

“Gimme Shelter” (two stars)

Former Disney teen star Vanessa Hudgens is a convincing teen runaway, and by far the best thing about this well-intentioned tale. The movie’s inspired by a real-life home for young unwed mothers, and its black-and-white way of viewing the world is complicated only by the anger in Hudgens’ performance. With Brendan Fraser.

Rated: PG-13 for language, subject matter.

Showing: Alderwood Mall, Everett Stadium, Meridian.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Life

Matt Stewart, left, and Janice Ayala, right, spin during country dance lessons at Normanna Lodge on Tuesday, April 9, 2024 in Everett, Washington. Normanna Lodge will be hosting country dance next Tuesday during PBR Stampede. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett Stampede aims to become a Western-themed tradition

The new weeklong event combines a popular Professional Bull Riders event with live music, two-step dancing and more.

Graham Kerr, 90, leans down and kisses his new wife, Nancy, during Senior Expo on Tuesday, March 26, 2024, at Hotel Indigo in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
‘Galloping Gourmet’ celebrity chef Graham Kerr is a Stanwood newlywed

The 90-year-old shared his love of Nancy, God and Costco at the Everett senior expo last month.

Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Edmonds Center for the Arts plays host to comedian Don Friesen on Friday and Grammy-nominated vocal group säje on Sunday.

Jon Kim freestyles during a RTHMZ rehearsal Monday, Jan. 22, 2024, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Moving with love: Lynnwood’s RTHMZ dances to their own beat

The team brings together dancers from across styles to raise the bar of what’s possible in the local scene.

Stress management, meditation or relaxation to reduce anxiety, control emotion during problem solving or frustration work concept, woman in lotus meditation on chaos mess line with positive energy.
Sharing reflections on 50 years of meditation

Meditation is no quick fix, but if you establish a consistent practice, over time, you’ll appreciate the results.

In the “rickety-chic” Psyrri neighborhood of Athens, you’ll find slick outdoor restaurants next to vibrant street art. (Cameron Hewitt)
No need to scram from an Athens on the rise

Rick Steves used to think of Athens as a big ugly city. But while updating his guidebook one summer, he discovered a many-faceted city that’s getting its act together.

chris elliott.
Why won’t Airbnb cover my hotel expenses? They promised!

When David Tuttle’s Airbnb host moves him to a different rental, Airbnb offers to cover his hotel expenses, but a month has passed since. Where’s the money?

Oumou Sangare, from Senegal, performs at the "Africa Standing Tall Against Poverty" in concert with Live8 in Johannesburg Saturday July 2, 2005. (AP Photo)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Hear Grammy winner Oumou Sangare on Saturday in Edmonds. Also on Saturday: The Everett Film Festival.

Jimmer DeGroot stands along the line of weber grills in his front yard on Sunday, March 31, 2024, in Grotto, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Why are there 24 Weber grills lined up on the highway to Stevens Pass?

Just ask Jimmer De Groot. He expresses his love of grills through his art. And it’s now a bit of an obsession.

2024 Honda Civic Type R (Photo provided by Honda)
2024 Honda Civic Type R

Developed in Japan, and track-tested around the world, the Civic R Type delivers 315 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque, making it Honda’s most powerful production vehicle in the U.S.

Suomenlinna
Soul sisters Helsinki and Tallinn are pearls of the Baltic

While they have their own stories to tell, these cities share a common heritage of Swedish and Russian influences.

My trip to Iraq was canceled, so why can’t I get my $7,590 back?

When Diane Gottlieb’s tour of Iraq is canceled, the tour operator offers her a voucher for a future trip. But she wants a refund.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.