Media Maven: “Freedom Writers” Movie Review
Featuring Hilary Swank, Scott Glenn, Patrick Dempsey and Pat Carroll
"Freedom Writers" is a movie starring Hilary Swank as an ambitious newcomer to the staff of an inner city high school. She is a teacher who chooses to teach at risk students in Los Angeles. Against her fathers approval, her spouses wishes and the naysayers' within her own faculty, she prevails in making a difference in the lives of her students.
"Freedom Writers" is the true life story of Erin Gruwell who succeeds in motivating her students to outperform expectations. She teaches them tolerance, empathy and self realization of taking responsibility for their lives rather than living behind hate. In Gruewells classroom mistrust no longer holds captive these young, hardened people.
Gaining this social metamorphous was hard won. Repeated attempts are made by the naive Gruwell to encourage her students to move out of their deep rooted ethnic groups. She is consistently met with disdain. She finds studying required literature to cultivate social awareness pales to the students own true life stories. Begun as a personal exercise in writing, an opportunity for change is born when Gruwell gives each student a notebook to keep as a journal.
In their writings grow lessons on integrity, diversity and the commonality of the human experience: We hurt when someone judges us because of our skin color; We anger when someone justifies violence in the name of righting a wrong; We devalue life for all when we refuse to see the similarity of our experiences; We cultivate prejudice and hate when we allow ignorance and long rooted vendettas dictate our actions.
In the exposure of their written experiences we are privy to realities wrought with questions of family loyalty, gang betrayal, commitment to graduating and changing the course of their "at risk" life. They are forced to ask themselves can they forego the expectation of being high school drop outs, pregnant teens, absentee fathers, drug pushing dealers or gun carrying gang members.
This movie is graphic. Hollywood did not make a candy stripe story with a picture perfect outcome neatly tied up with sanitary closure. We have seen many teen inspired movies of triumph overcoming diversity and ethnic difficulties. Rarely do we see one of this caliber.
Patrick Dempsey as Swanks husband gives a bland performance that matches the paucity of spine his film character lacks. Scott Glenn as Swanks father portrays a man with lofty ideals that go to the wayside when his daughters safety and future are so affected by her work.
Hillary Swank gives a top notch performance. And in a crucial addendum to the film Pat Carroll gives an Oscar worthy performance as a woman who lived the injustice of social cleansing.
This movie is not recommended for the faint of heart. It is recommended for all those who are comfortable with the status quo. For every blind eye turned away from the problems of our childrens youth, the complacency will have consequence.