Starring Hilary Swank, Patrick Dempsey, Imelda Staunton, Scott Glenn, April L. Hernandez, Mario
Written By: Richard LaGravenese
Directed By: Richard LaGravenese
Studio: Paramount Pictures
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I honestly wasn’t planning on watching this movie but since my twin brother is busy with moving out of the apartment, I guess I have to pick up his slack. I decided to pop in the DVD to watch after a long day of work. I have to say, the movie is pretty decent. Not very original in terms of concept but it’s worth a watching if you like these types of movies.
Freedom Writers is about a young teacher named Erin Gruwell who was just hired for her first teaching job in the LA area. It’s around 1994 so expect some music in that area to be played in the movie. Erin is told that she has a very ambitious or optimistic approach to teaching her students but she thinks she can break through to these students. She quickly learns that things aren’t going to be easy and she has to try different ways of getting to her students. The classroom is filled with lots of ethnic groups and they all hate each other so it makes class really ‘FUN!’ She finally turns some heads when she brings up the holocaust and Hitler. The classroom doesn’t want to respect Ms Gruwell just simple because she’s white and they know what white people are capable of. Erin gets an idea to have the classroom write in journals and put them in a closet each night, and load and behold, the class actually does it. The students really start to take a liking to Ms Gruwell, and they also comes to learn about racism and accepting each other for who they are. The rest of the teachers don’t really like the way Gruwell is getting all of this sudden popularity amongst the students and try to stop her from teaching beyond the grades she’s assigned to.
This storyline has been done to death but for some reason I still found myself wrapped in the storyline. Besides focusing on the teacher, the students get a lot of screen time as well. As Erin is reading the journals, you hear voice-overs of the students talking about their experiences with gang violence and other hardships. A lot of the movie is just that, but you also see a lot of progression in the students. I liked the scene where a student gets handed a stereotypical drawing. Erin grabs the photo and tells everyone how this is how holocausts start. Only one kid in the class knew what the holocaust was so these kids obviously had a lot to learn. The argument Erin gives about how gang/racial violence is the same as the Nazi and the holocaust. I think once she brings that to the attention of the class, they slowly start to respect her.
I thought the acting was well done, a little forced sometimes with Swank. But the students gave a pretty realistic style to the acting as gang students. Imelda Staunton gives a good performance as the Head of the English Department who’s upset over Gruwell’s teachings. She delivered a very believable American accent…ya know, since she’s British & everything. Ladies out there will be disappointed that Patrick Dempsey wasn’t in the film that much. You can only see him pouting at home, waiting for Erin to get home from school. I guess there’s a price to pay if you focus on something else too much. I thought the direction was okay, the writing was pretty good and the overall film was enjoyable.
If you like movies like Dangerous Minds, Lean on Me, um..21 Jump Street, than you’ll like Freedom Writers. It’s not really new or original but it’s still worth watching if you like these types of films. You if really like the movie, there’s a few little featurettes to watch after your done with the movie. There’s some deleted scenes, Making a Dream featurette, audio commentary, behind the story featurette and some others. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like Freedom Writers, but in the end, I did.
Commentary by Director Richard LaGravenese and Hilary Swank
Making ‘A Dream’
Freedom Writers Family
Freedom Writers: The Story Behind the Story
ENGLISH: Dolby Digital 5.1 CC
ENGLISH: Dolby Digital Stereo CC
FRENCH: Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen 1.85:1 Color (Anamorphic)
Favorite Scenes: When they were talking about the holocaust.
Running Time: 122 minutes