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An Important Film from a Committed Company

  • Apr 22, 2007
  • by
FREEDOM WRITERS produces more catches in the throat than many a film in years. This viewer avoided the film, thinking it was yet another in a long line of 'bad school kids with criminal instincts' brought around by a champion teacher (starting with 'Blackboard Jungle' the same story has been told almost yearly!): it is a distinct pleasure to share that this film is so very different on many levels that it makes all the other school problem/redemption movies pale in comparison.

Based on a true story about a Long Beach California High School just after integration and busing altered the state's educational system, the book "The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them" by Erin Gruwell is a compilation of the journals of the student of a newly mixed racial classroom (African American, Latino, Cambodian, Chinese, White) voicing their experiences about coming together as a family due to the influence of a novice, naive, but highly motivated and insightful teacher - Erin Gruwell. The book was adapted for the screen by director Richard LaGravenese and carefully cast with young actors who represented the very groups about whom the story is written.

Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank, in her very finest role to date!) is married to a frustrated architect student Scott (Patrick Dempsey) who has 'settled ' for a life as a computer programmer. Erin, the daughter of a Civil Rights activist (Scott Glenn), is idealistic and wants to teach in a place where she is challenged, a chance to make her life meaningful. She graciously and naively steps into a classroom of high school freshmen, all form different gangs and scarred by racial violence, frustrated to be trapped in a classroom with a white woman who seems clueless to their real life problems, wanting to teach them literature! The story unveils the technique Erin develops to erase border lines and bond the students by visits to the Holocaust Museum, taking them to nice restaurants in Newport Beach, treating them with respect and asking them to see the similarities in each other. The students respond, despite the harsh warnings of Erin's fellow teachers Margaret (Imelda Staunton, in another exceptional role) who insists everything is by the old rules, and Brian (John Benjamin Hickey) who has little use for the new system and group of students. As an example of how the students transform their characters is the funding of a visit to Long Beach by the woman who hid Anne Frank (the students have read her diary as a vulnerable Jewish child) and Pat Carroll plays that woman Miep Gies in yet another outstanding performance.

Though the film is strong in every moment and every member of the cast (though the brilliance of Hilary Swank's portrayal is one of incredible realism and subtlety) and the various actors who comprise the Freedom Writers are superb: April Lee Hernandez, Mario, Jason Finn, Deance Wyatt, Kristin Herrera, Jacklyn Ngan, Sergio Montalvo, Vanetta Smith, Gabriel Chavarria, Hunter Parrish, Antonio García, Giovonnie Samuels, and Jacklyn Ngan and yes, they all deserve mentioning in a review. This is a full company effort and the result is a deeply moving film that celebrates the individual and the right to hope and to achieve. A Must See Experience. Grady Harp, April 07

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More Freedom Writers reviews
review by . October 10, 2008
Pros: concept of the film     Cons: ...     The Bottom Line:   "So I'm gone close my eyes  And I'm gone live my life  Despite what you think Im'a be free cause Im'a be me"  ~Ashanti         The movie Freedom Writers is fairly predictable and at times slow paced. The concept that brought this movie to light, however, is outstanding. It was directed by Richard LaGravenese who adapted …
review by . April 16, 2008
Pros: awesome soundtrack; great story; terrific cast; inspiring message     Cons: may not be for those viewers over 35     The Bottom Line: A terrific movie, especially for those attending a racially-charged school. An AWESOME movie for teens and teachers.     Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie''s plot. Voices of teenagers are constantly silenced by authority - Especially the voices of "troubled" teens. More …
review by . August 03, 2008
Pros: Read review     Cons: Read review     The Bottom Line: The Freedom Writers is worthwhile because it tells a true story that’s well worth telling, because it is (mostly) honest...     Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot. Ignorance: lack of knowledge or education. Ignorance (and the hatred it give birth to) is at the root of racism and bigotry and the source of so much human strife and suffering. …
review by . March 05, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
This is not the greatest film ever made. In fact, it's unlikely to rank in the top 500 or 1,000.     But it is an inspiring film.      A young, inexperienced public school teacher is given a classroom of kids who are expected to fail. Black, white, yellow, red, they have all failed to date and noting more is expected of them.     Hillary Swank, playing the teacher, is expected to warehouse them for a year or two until they are old enough …
About the reviewer
Grady Harp ()
Ranked #97
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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