Freedom Writers is a moved I scoffed at when I was in theaters. Despite decent reviews, the movie looked like countless other films before it, and thus I avoided it at all costs (well, in reality, I just didn't have time to go see it). Now out on DVD, I managed to get my hands on a copy, and I can say this: I was right, and I was wrong.
Freedom Writers is like countless movies before it: an innocent white teacher naively takes a job at an inner city school, starts off on shaky ground with her hopeless, gang-affiliated students and eventually wins them over. Based on a true story, the movie is feel-good emotion through and through, but, I'll hand it to director Richard LaGravenese - Freedom Writers is a well done and entertaining inner city school movie. It may not be original, but it is uplifting and a joy to watch.
Hilary Swank stars as Michelle Pfeiffer (oops, I meant to say Erin Gruwell but got this movie confused with a version of Dangerous Minds without "Gangsta's Paradise"), a brand new teacher who finds herself in the high school from Hell. Not only are her students gang members, disorderly and at times downright disrespectful, the staff, namely her supervisor and a senior teacher in her department, have completely given up on the students and thus restrict her from doing anything sensational to capture the kids' attention. Erin decides to change course anyway and convinces her students to start writing in journals, which she discovers is an effective way to get them to remain interested. As they continue to develop as students, Erin watches as her group sheds their gang boundaries and start showing an interest in the outside world, including "The Diary of Anne Frank."
There's nothing much I can say about Freedom Writers. You know exactly how it's going to turn out and there are really no surprises in the whole movie. Aside from Erin, the movie focuses on a couple key students and also the struggling relationship between Erin and her husband, played by Patrick Dempsey. The movie doesn't have "Gangsta's Paradise", which means it is already a step down from Dangerous Minds, but it works in its own way. The movie is enjoyable, relatively captivating and well acted. Of course, Swank has been in better and more difficult roles, but she elevates the material.
Freedom Writers is a surprisingly quality film that should be watched by everyone who likes this kind of drama.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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