11 January 2007

Freedom Writers (2007, Richard LaGravenese)

{46, C+/C, **} | Loews Village 7

• How much respect can you accord a lousy film that "works" (to the extent of pushing your emotional buttons) only because you know that the events depicted actually happened? After giving it some careful thought, I've concluded: A tiny, grudging bit.

• In almost every particular, this is exactly the cliché factory it appears to be. Rookie superteacher gradually earns the trust of her underprivileged kids, employs unorthodox methods in upbeat montage sequences, battles pointlessly antagonistic school administrators (this is the thanks Imelda Staunton gets for playing Vera Drake?), receives nothing but condescension and scorn from her disapproving husband, etc. etc. etc. Not a single moment feels remotely authentic, and gee I wonder whether the girl who's poised to commit perjury as a murder witness will eventually dredge up enough inner strength to tell the truth?

• Nonetheless, the fact that the real Erin Gruwell took on two additional jobs, paying for books and field trips out of her own pocket, and managed by sheer force of will to transform a room full of kids who'd been written off as unteachable into a class so engaged that it organizes its own fundraiser in order to fly Miep Gies in from Holland…well, I guess I'm getting soft in my old age, because I was furtively brushing tears from beneath my glasses roughly every ten minutes. Some part of me simply responds to the idea that a person like Gruwell would more or less browbeat her students into recognizing their self-worth, no matter how ineptly her story may be told.

• And it's fairly inept. Demonstrating about as much knowledge of hip-hop as Gruwell ("Who here likes Two-pack?"), LaGravenese sets a tense holdup/shooting sequence to the confrontational gangsta beat of—I kid you not—Digable Planets. Why not "Mr. Wendal" while you're at it?

• Swank gives the energetic, commanding performance you'd expect, though her giant teeth distracted me more here than they ever have before. It must take her half an hour to brush.

• In short, fuck this picture for making me cry in my opinion.

1 comment:

Nictate said...

Hilarious review.

Mr. Wendall. Baha!