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Gimme Shelter
Roadside Attractions
Vanessa Hudgens in 'Gimme Shelter'
Gimme Shelter
Our Rating
2½ Stars - Fair
Average Rating
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Mpaa Rating
PG-13 (For mature thematic material involving mistreatment, some drug content, violence and language - all concerning teens.)
Directed By
Ron Krauss
Vanessa Hudgens, Rosario Dawson, Brendan Fraser, Stephanie Szostak
Theatre Release
January 24, 2014 by Roadside Attractions

In his introduction to George MacDonald: An Anthology, C. S. Lewis wrote, "There are indeed, passages, many of them in this collection, where the wisdom and (I would dare call it) the holiness that are in him triumph over and even burn away the baser elements in his style."

Lewis was wrestling with the "difficult critical problem" that the minister-turned-author presented. On technique and craftsmanship alone, Lewis says, he could not place MacDonald in "the first rank" of literary artists. But Lewis, as a Christian, fears that some qualities of MacDonald's writing—things he recognizes and cherishes—will not be valued properly by those who judge a work on its technical excellence alone.

Lewis sometimes allows holiness to triumph over style when acting in his role as critic, and today, that might border on the professionally scandalous. But it's a good model for the Christian who strives to have both intellectual and spiritual integrity. The Christian doesn't have to call bad art good—but he doesn't need to apologize for insisting that some art that gets called bad by everyone else really is good.

I've seen more poor Christian craftsmanship championed in my life than I've seen adequate craftsmanship elevated by its "wisdom" and "holiness." But examples of the latter exist.

Vanessa Hudgens and Brendan Fraser in 'Gimme Shelter'
Roadside Attractions

Vanessa Hudgens and Brendan Fraser in 'Gimme Shelter'

Gimme Shelter is a good movie in the moral sense of the word, and it's certainly not a bad movie in the technical sense of the word. Its presentation isn't as good as its message, and it lacks some nuance and focus—the characters in particular don't have as much depth and dimension as we might have liked—but their situations are dramatic, and that comes through. The writing is slightly above average for the genre. The cast is uniformly excellent. Vanessa Hudgens will probably get a lot of well-meaning but misguided praise for being unrecognizable, but that's just make-up and wardrobe. She conveys both her character's toughness and her emotional vulnerability without over-emoting.

As the film opens, Apple (known as Agnes to all but her father) is cutting her hair and trying to drum up the courage to leave the custody of her mother, June (Rosario Dawson). The getaway isn't a clean one. (One sign of the script's efficiency: Hudgens and Dawson are able to convey the entire back story of this girl and her mother in one argument.)

Apple finds and connects briefly with her father (Brendan Fraser), but when he and his second wife find out that Apple is pregnant, they push her to have an abortion. Eventually, through the intercession of a hospital chaplain (James Earl Jones), she finds herself at a shelter run by Kathy Difiore (Ann Dowd). Difiore is an actual person, the founder of Several Sources Shelters, and in an interview with me she said that while Apple was based on more than one shelter resident, writer/director Ron Krauss worked on the script for over a year, often having "script nights" at the shelter to help make the screenplay more authentic.

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Gimme Shelter