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In writer-director Ron Krauss’ soapy drama, Gimme Shelter, Vanessa Hudgens is so fucking street. In the opening scene, Hudgens’ Apple, a 16-year-old who lives with her mother (Rosario Dawson, her teeth yellowed) in a crack motel, hacks off her long dark curls into a choppy mess reminiscent of the old Bieber. She repeatedly whispers, “I can do this.” Then she runs for a cab, fighting mom and then the driver when he tries to throw her out and she, in turn, attempts to steal the cab. There’s a lot of wrestling in the first five minutes.
Apple’s hair is perpetually in her face, a face that looks like it belongs to a meth head—-black circles under her eyes, red marks on her skin—-until the camera gets closer and Hudgens’ purdy softness and lovely bone structure become obvious. So for most of the film, the High School Musical alum acts with her unruly locks and her neck, which is covered by a hoodie and hangs down like a dead girl walking. Yes, she’s a beauty playing “ugly”—-which might win her praise from the easily impressed if the movie weren’t so awful.
Hudgens also affects a tough-kid accent, which first comes out when Apple flees to her wealthy father (Brendan Fraser) and asks if she can crash in his groomed family’s New Jersey mansion. So now we have three cartoons: Dawson’s addict, Hudgens’ don’t-know-no-better badass, and Fraser’s slick-haired Wall Street yuppie with a brow forever furrowed with concern. When Apple skulks around dad’s place, his maid sounds the Hoodie Alarm and she’s detained by the cops (more wrestling) until he gets home and immediately recognizes her. Even though, well, that shouldn’t make any sense—-Apple later reads a crumpled letter he wrote her before she was born, saying that they’d never meet.
Gimme Shelter is ultimately a melodramatic, anti-abortion, more-suitable-for-TV movie. Apple is pregnant, and after a series of boneheaded moves, ends up in a shelter for pregnant teens, run by a woman (Compliance’s Ann Dowd) who spouts ridiculous lines like “Don’t cast your immaturity on me” and “Stop dancing with your demons!” Throughout, the musical cues are so this is what you should feel now that it’s surprising the soundtrack doesn’t include “Papa Don’t Preach.”
I’d warn of a spoiler ahead, but if you think Gimme Shelter is going to have Apple end up, say, under a bridge or in a grave, well, you’re wrong. She’s eventually given a comb and a shower, and whaddya know, her complexion is porcelain and her ‘tude grateful and loving. And Apple’s final-chapter monologue? Devoid of accent and bursting with are you kidding me? wisdom. We could learn a lot from Apple—-such as don’t bother with this film.