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Gimme Shelter: A Holy Clusterfuck

GIMME SHELTER "There, there. It's okay. At least you're not me, Brendan Fraser."

GIMME SHELTER "There, there. It's okay. At least you're not me, Brendan Fraser."

GIMME SHELTER begins with Agnes "Apple" Bailey (Vanessa Hudgens) violently cutting her hair in a filthy bathroom, whispering, "I can do this, I'm not afraid." It soon becomes apparent that "this" isn't just a savagely DIYed makeover, but a desperate escape from a squalid, abusive life with her drug-addicted mother, June (an alarmingly yellow-toothed Rosario Dawson). And thus begins one of the stupidest melodramas to have emerged in recent memory. Big ups, writer/director/producer Ron Krauss.

The first chapter of the "based on a true story" Gimme Shelter is loaded with endurance-testing angst. Apple has two gears: sullen, uncooperative near-silence, and impenetrable fury. Complete with Lana Del Rey intoning mournfully in the background, the film is determined to paint Apple as the worst case possible: a victim of physical and sexual abuse, homeless, unwanted, angry, and ugly.

Apple's one shred of hope is in the form of a solitary missive from her biological father, Tom (Brendan Fraser!), addressed to her before she was born, while he gallantly prepared to abandon all contact with both mother and child in favor of college, a successful career on Wall Street, and—of course—not "letting down" his own parents. It's when a dirty, bruised, and now-16 Apple arrives on his palatial doorstep that the true nature of this trial of a clusterfuck begins to reveal itself. Shortly after her disruptiveness is established by burning food on the stove and drinking raw eggs (?), Apple barfs, which means she's pregnant. Not with wholly unreasonable argument, her potentially well-meaning father and his even more ambiguously portrayed wife command her to terminate the pregnancy.

However! Compelled by ultrasound images that have been subtly handed to her by a nurse with a long look and "good luck," Apple busts out of the abortion clinic and back onto the streets! More hard times ensue, including an unintentionally hilarious car crash, which lands her in the hospital. There she is taken under the wing of the hospital chaplain (James Earl Jones?), and it finally becomes evident where this film is steering its target audience of pregnant/potentially pregnant teens. If you guessed "into the Bible and single motherhood by way of pro-life Christian shelters," buy yourself an ice cream cone.

Gimme Shelter is full of character shifts that are nothing short of amazing. Apple rapidly goes from un-socialized disaster to cooing "I love you" to her sister-friends during group hugs at the no-kill shelter for wayward embryos. In fact, all these girls, in unison, go from damaged, threatening thugs to cheerfully hanging "binkies" on the shelter's Christmas tree—seemingly because a stash of clean sweater sets is uncovered in the basement, basically? The only consistent personalities appear to be the bad ones, like Apple's roommate, who, after being established as a major-ish character, is simply no longer mentioned once she runs away from the shelter (presumably, she's simply doomed). Likewise, June is stuck lurking on the periphery (possibly clenching a razorblade between her gross teeth, which is something she actually does at one point, while hissing, "Give us a kiss!").

There are too many absurdities in Gimme Shelter to mention, but its championing of single motherhood among disadvantaged youth is all too clear. That it does so by using the case study of a young woman who is ultimately offered free use of an incredibly wealthy relative's guesthouse is infuriating. This movie can go straight to hell.

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Gimme Shelter (2014)
Rated PG-13 · 100 minutes · 2014
Director: Ron Krauss
Cast: Vanessa Hudgens, Rosario Dawson, Brendan Fraser, James Jones, Ann Dowd and Dascha Polanco

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