Vanessa Hudgens is pregnant teen in 'Gimme Shelter'

Vanessa Hudgens plays a young woman pregnant, on her own and on the road who finds the shelter she needs.
Vanessa Hudgens plays a young woman pregnant, on her own and on the road who finds the shelter she needs.
Posted: January 24, 2014

DISNEY Channel graduate Vanessa Hudgens goes gritty again in "Gimme Shelter," playing a homeless, pregnant teen who finds refuge in a shelter.

It's Hudgens' second consecutive I'm-a-grown-up-now role - she was one of the armed party girls in last year's over-the-top consumerist satire, "Spring Breakers."

"Gimme Shelter" is a far more sober affair - it's drawn from the work of Kathy DiFiore, a New Jersey woman who opened her home to pregnant teens in the 1980s, and who has since expanded to a string of not-for-profit shelters in the state.

You may recall that bureaucrats tried to shut down DiFiore's shelter back in the 1980s, before DiFiore enlisted the aid of Mother Teresa, who persuaded then Gov. Tom Kean to relent.

Since then DiFiore has turned organizer (she provides materials to help others open shelters) and activist - she operates a pro-life website called LifeCall.org.

"Gimme Shelter," written and directed by Ron Krauss, who spent a year living at one of the shelters, makes DiFiore a secondary character in the drama. Hudgens is front and center as Apple, a young woman - pimped out by her drug-addict mother (Rosario Dawson) - who runs away from this "home" when she learns that she's pregnant.

Apple turns up at the mansion of the father (Brendan Fraser) she never knew, now a well-to-do Wall Street success living in a posh suburb. Her presence disrupts his existing family, tensions escalate and Apple hits the road again, this time ending up in a shelter operated by DiFiore (Ann Dowd), where the restive, highly uneven movie finally finds its footing.

Krauss uses a lot of nonprofessional actors in these scenes, using teen girls to play themselves. What you feel in these scenes is not so much authenticity as sincerity - the kindness showed these young women leaves a residue on the screen.

The professional actors fare less well - Dawson and her yellow prosthetic teeth are too much as Apple's junkie mom, while Fraser seems to have not enough to do. James Earl Jones has a nice role as a local priest who counsels a hospitalized Apple.

Hudgens herself is fine - she added weight to play a pregnant teen, and reportedly cut her own hair short. She stares out from underneath her black bangs with hostility and mistrust, and, with her chin tucked defensively to her chest, looks weirdly like James Cagney.

And she gives Apple some of Cagney's pugnacious spirit. So, if you've ever wondered how Cagney would react if someone suggested that he have an abortion, "Gimme Shelter" gives you some idea.


Blog: philly.com/KeepItReel

Online: ph.ly/Movies

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