Office Christmas Party
Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…
"Gimme Shelter" starts with a lot of promise. We see shots of a gritty New York not often seen in films today: rattling above-ground subway lines, tenements, dank hallways filled with noise and chaos. Over the urban landscape shots, we hear a whispering female voice, "I'm not scared. I can do this. I'm okay." Vanessa Hudgens, fully separated now from her "High School Musical" persona, having taken gritty almost feral roles in "Sucker Punch," "Spring Breakers," and "Frozen Ground", stands in a cramped bathroom, chopping off her black hair, whispering those words to herself. Her words will come up again as her character, Apple, makes a run for it, out of the life handed to her, into a life she created.
"Gimme Shelter" has an episodic structure that gives a monotonous "and then this happened, and then this happened" feel to all of the hardships that Apple encounters. There are car crashes and locked shelter doors, uncomprehending social workers and screaming families. Father McCarthy, a kindly priest played by James Earl Jones, hovers around Apple, shining his benign light.
Based on a true story, "Gimme Shelter" ultimately is about the work of Kathy DiFiore, who created Christian shelters for pregnant teens who want to keep their babies. The scenes of Apple in the shelter all the other pregnant girls are the film's best, but the shelter doesn't appear until halfway through, Krauss having decided for some reason to hold it back. What this does is it makes the shelter seem like a sub-plot, or another "and then this happened" episode, when it is actually the point of the whole thing.
Aside from James Earl Jones and a baffled and uptight Brendan Fraser, Vanessa Hudgens is the only "name" in the film. She is in every scene. She carries the action. Like the famous "women's pictures" in the 1940s, "Gimme Shelter" is interested in the up-and-down journey of its lead female character: her struggles and triumphs, failures and flaws. Every detail here is right. The piercings on Apple's nose and lips look infected, her skin is blotched and pimply, and when she gets a chance to eat, she shovels the food in her mouth like a wild animal. Apple has been "in the system" since her earliest days, she has been abused and raped and molested, and the "system" kept shoving her back into the pit. Her mother, played by an almost-unrecognizable Rosario Dawson, was "born in the streets", she has rotting yellow teeth, bruises on her legs. The "system" keeps trying to re-unite Apple with her mother, against Apple's clear wishes. But Apple is still a minor.