A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Gimme Shelter is an earnest drama, inspired by real-life events, centered around a 16-year-old who's trying to flee from an abusive mother. It deals with fairly mature themes and involves intense situations -- including a feral fight between the mother and daughter, drug addiction and teenage pregnancy -- that may prove too heavy for some teens. There's swearing, including "s--t" and "bitch," a brief scene involving drug use witnessed by a minor, and sequences that show a parent verbally and physically abusing a child.
What's the story?
Agnes (aka Apple) Bailey (Vanessa Hudgens) is 16 and tired. She's tired of living with a neglectful, drug-addicted mother (Rosario Dawson) and tired of feeling like she's all alone navigating an already compromised life. She sets off to find the father she never knew (Brendan Fraser), who got her mother pregnant when they were teens. And though he seems willing to help, he doesn't know how. Neither does his wife (Stephanie Szostak), especially when it becomes clear that Apple is pregnant. Apple's only hope may be a halfway house for pregnant teens run by a woman who once was homeless (Ann Dowd). But is it?
Is it any good?
Vanessa Hudgens is the high note in this well-meaning, but unexciting movie. She turns in a strong and energetic performance that ultimately suffers because of elementary filmmaking that lurches from one plot point to the next, revealing neither depth nor complexity. Rosario Dawson, too, is fantastic -- too bad the movie doesn't have the heft or grit her portrayal of a neglectful, abusive mother deserves.
The movie does uplift, but in that maddeningly unspecific, forgettable way that afterschool specials do. Had the characters been written with more layers and insight, and sans the heavy-handedness that afflicts it as it stands, GIMME SHELTER could've risen to its potential.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about abusive relationships. Why is it so difficult to get out of an abusive relationship? Does this movie accurately depict the difficulty of extracting oneself from abuse? If you witnessed abuse, who could you tell?
Does this film shed new light on the plight of abused kids, foster care, and teen pregnancy, or does it perpetuate the usual facts? Where can you find out more about these topics?
- In theaters: January 24, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: April 29, 2014
- Cast: Brendan Fraser, James Earl Jones, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Hudgens
- Director: Ron Krauss
- Studio: Roadside Attractions
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Great girl role models
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: mature thematic material involving mistreatment, some drug content, violence and language -- all concerning teens
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.