Vanessa Hudgens Comes of Age in Teen Pregnancy Film

By Mark Jackson, Epoch Times
January 24, 2014 Updated: January 23, 2014

Tales abound of movie stars’ contracts that only allow them to be shot from flattering angles.

In this age of suspecting everything is a publicity stunt, one ought not to underestimate the courage it takes for actors to appear unflattering. 

Maybe Vanessa Hudgens is not a bombshell. Then again—maybe she is. She’s pretty close. In other words, she’s got more than enough good looks to warrant plenty of vanity. 

Google-image Vanessa Hudgens, and then go see “Gimme Shelter.” You’ll appreciate the ugly-fication sacrifice.

Sordid Sixteen

Agnes (Hudgens) doesn’t have a sweet-sixteen life. It’s a living-in-the-projects with a crack-whore mother (Rosario Dawson) type of 16-year-old life.

Agnes musters her courage and hits the road, trying to steal a taxi, getting kicked to the curb by the cabbie. It’s all horribly desperate and Hudgens makes you feel every miserable second.

Apple (turns out Agnes was named “Apple” by her biological father) hunts down this dad she never knew (Brendan Fraser). 

He’s got a mansion, a trophy-wife, and spoiled kids—“She smells and she’s weird, why does she have to stay with us?” 

They take her in, and of course she’s predictably impossible, unpredictable, and culture-shocked. 

When Stepford Wife-like wife Joanna (Stephanie Szostak) ferrets out the fact that Agnes is not only homeless but pregnant—it’s decreed abortion time. She drives Agnes to the clinic and ditches her there.

Apple Hits Bottom

Apple has a profound experience of the preciousness of life within her, can’t go through with the murder of her child, and is then back on the streets, sleeping in cars, eating out of dumpsters, and getting accosted by bad men. 

“Yo Shorty, we got some things we need to discuss” hollers a would-be “manager,” while leaving his SUV running on the street.

She steals his SUV, makes an escape, and promptly gets slammed by a truck. Immediate retribution. Wakes up handcuffed to a hospital bed. 

Clinic-haunting chaplain (James Earl Jones) lends an ear, and Agnes eventually finds her way to a home for pregnant teenage girls. 
They’re a predictable motley crew of pregnant teens and moms. There’s bonding, rebellion, sneaking into the office and reading their files in the middle of the night, going to the local church and getting donations for their cause. 

There are babies galore. And why not? It’s a movie about not killing babies.

Dad wants to make things right for his granddaughter since he abandoned Apple. But after giving it some thought, looking at her new nursery, and accepting Stepford-wife apologies, Apple finds she’s not quite ready to leave her new-found community.

Right Film, Wrong Song

Is this a fun film? No. Is it attention holding? Absolutely. Is it the perfect film to take rebellious, misguided, and lost teen girls to? Make that any teen girl? Yes. Is it hokey? No. It’s a decently executed, powerful, meaningful, if simplistic, telling of a true story. 

One warning: do not stay for the credit roll and allow yourself to be drenched in schmaltz by the Celine Dion song which features harps. Let’s repeat that: it has harps. Leave early. It’s guaranteed to ruin the entire experience. 

It’s amazing how the wrong music can immediately turn film-art into film-kitsch. Don’t go there.


‘Gimme Shelter’
Director: Ron Krauss
Starring: Vanessa Hudgens, Rosario Dawson, Brendan Fraser, James Earl Jones, Ann Dowd, Stephanie Szostak
Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes
Rated PG-13
3 stars out of 5

Follow Mark on Twitter: @FilmCriticEpoch