In Gimme Shelter, Vanessa Hudgens continues her successful bid to make fans forget about her clean-cut High School Musical roots, just as she did in Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers. As a film, though, Gimme Shelter is unremarkable, a predictable story of redemption that happens awfully fast, to a girl who only seems to be in peril briefly — and has a rich dad to bail her out.
Hudgens stars as Apple, a pierced, pregnant teenager who flees her volatile, drugged-out mother (a truly terrifying Rosario Dawson) and seeks sanctuary with the father she’s never met (Brendan Fraser). As a scared teenager, he abandoned her. Now a Wall Street type, married with a skeptical wife and two kids of his own, he’s willing to take her in and help her — but only if she terminates her pregnancy.
Since the movie — which is based on a true story — doesn’t end right there, you know Apple will decide to keep her baby, flee her father and his money and end up on the streets. Eventually she meets a kind priest (James Earl Jones), who directs her to a shelter for pregnant teens and their infants.
The mistake writer/director Ron Krauss makes is taking too long to get to the shelter, where Apple must learn trust and cooperation to function as part of a loving if unconventional family. It’s easily the most interesting scenario; her bitter battles with her father, her near-misses with tragedy on the street and her eventual conversion all feel like scenes from a TV movie you saw so long ago you can’t quite remember its title.
But there’s potential in how Apple will cope with a crowded home full of other girls and crying babies, especially with her vicious mother lurking in the vicinity, eager to bring home not one but two welfare meal tickets. Instead, though, the film never fleshes out the other girls, leaving Apple’s story a little too pat to be remembered.
Cast: Vanessa Hudgens, Rosario Dawson, Brendan Fraser, James Earl Jones.
Writer/director: Ron Krauss
Producers: Ron Krauss, Jeff Rice.
A Roadside Attractions release. Running time: 100 minutes. Mature thematic material involving mistreatment, some drug content, violence and language. Opens Friday Jan. 24 in Miami-Dade: Aventura, Miami Lakes, Kendall, Sunset; in Broward: Paradise, Cypress Creek; in Palm Beach: Shadowood, Palace, Parisian, Royal Palm.