Based on true events, Gimme Shelter gives Vanessa Hudgens the chance to break bad as Agnes "Apple" Bailey: a troubled pregnant teen whose journey to motherhood would make Shailene Woodley's Amy Juergens blush. With roles in Spring Breakers, Sucker Punch and now this, the actress proves she's so over her High School Musical days. Sadly, the film never escapes Lifetime move feel. The film also stars Rosario Dawson, James Earl Jones, Anna Dowd and Brendan Fraser.
Here are five things to know about Vanessa Hudgens grittiest role yet:
1. Monster of a Transformation: Like Charlize Theron in her Oscar-winning turn as Aileen Wuornos, the Disney vet gained 15 pounds, chopped off gorgeous locks and added an assortment of piercings and tattoos. The tats are fake, but what rings true is her dedication to the role. Especially, in the second half, when she's mostly wordless. Great performances are not just about dialogue, but the choices that the actor makes.
2. A Not So Secret Life: When director Ron Krauss screened his latest project Amexica for the United Nations he met Kathy DiFiore who was being honored for her work with teenage mothers. Her story became the inspiration for Gimme Shelter. Anna Dowd plays the real life caregiver. Also, many real young women (and their adorable kids!) were used instead of actors.
3. Too Much Drama, No Real Weight: After a New York scene introduces us to Apple's dilemma (pregnant with no options) the pacing moves up and down with car crashes, locked shelters, cold social workers, and Apple's mother. Thank the Lord, literally, for Father McCarthy played by the all too underused James Earl Jones. At least he's got that big smile to lighten the mood.
4. Not a Kid Anymore: No stranger to unconventional roles, back in 1995 Rosario Dawson made her debut in Kids, the ultra edgy teen flick from then 19-year old Harmony Korine. (Hudgens starred last year in Korine's polarizing Spring Breakers.) Dawson sweats out the desperation of Apple's drug-fueled mother with eyes that burn.
5. By-the-Numbers Script Saved by Last Act: The story has no real moments of genuine surprise. When Apple meets up with her wealthy biological father (dependable Brendan Fraser) things predictably get culture-clashy by way of his snotty wife. The last section of the film is the strongest as Apple gets acquainted with fellow teen moms at DiFiore's center. It's not Short Term 12, but the quieter moments work just as well.