Voices of teenagers are constantly silenced by authority - Especially the voices of "troubled" teens. More often than not, these teens are pushed through high school just to get them out of the way, rather than cultivate the impressionable minds they possess. We have all seen it, if not experienced it first-hand. A student causes major problems to teachers and administrators (not to mention other students), and is labeled as a "trouble-maker" and unteachable. That student is then placed in "Special Education" classes that are more like a babysitting session than a lesson, just to keep them out of trouble and away from students that dont cause problems. No one expects these kids to do anything with their lives, much less graduate from high school.
What happens when a teacher comes into the situation and actually cares about these troubled teenagers? Freedom Writers answers that question by telling the true story of Erin Gruwell (played by Hilary Swank), a young teacher stepping into an integrated school and trying to make a difference in the lives of her students. This film is based on The Freedom Writers Diary, a compilation of the journals written by students in Ms. Gruwell's English class at Wilson High School in Long Beach, CA.
The year is 1992. The Los Angeles area is reeling from repercussions of the Rodney King trial and following riots. You can cut the racial tension with a knife. This is especially the case for Wilson High School in Long Beach, CA, where Erin Gruwell is going to start her first year as a freshman and sophomore English teacher. Her classroom, room 203, is where her "challenged" class meets. All of the students are on a 5th or 6th grade reading level. Her immediate boss just wants her to babysit the kids, and everyone else thinks that she is wasting her time trying to teach them - including her husband Scott (Patrick Dempsey) and her father Steve (Scott Glenn). Even her students tell her that she is wasting her time.
Erin soon realizes that gang life runs rampant throughout Wilson. Virtually all of her students are not only affected, but consumed by it. Erin decides that it is time to make a change. She comes up with the idea of the "Line Game." After placing a wide piece of red tape all the way down the length of her classroom, she asks questions to her students. If they can answer yes to any of the questions, they are to stand on the line. After asking a series of light questions, she asks if anyone has ever lost a friend to gang violence. Everyone in the class stands on the line.
Erin gives the class an assignment to write their own story in a private journal, which she actually purchased herself for her students. Thus, the Freedom Writers are born. Everyone starts writing in their books, telling their life stories.
What is amazing is the change that Erin made in the lives of her students. Many of them turned their lives around because of what they learned in her class. We have all had a teacher that has inspired us to succeed. That is exactly what Erin did for the 15 kids in her class.
What is so special about this film is the fact that it is a true story. The significant difference that Erin Gruwell made not only in the lives of her students but also in their communities is amazing. She single-handedly broke the barriers of racism among her students. That is a great accomplishment.
The performance of the cast is absolutely outstanding. Many young actors, including several teenagers, were used to play her students. Some had a lot of experience, many had little to no experience. Regardless of their resume, there was not a poor performance by anyone in the cast. Everyone in the audience can relate to at least one character - be it Erin herself, Scott, Steve, or the any one of the students.
Of course, since this is an MTV production, the soundtrack is outstanding. Featuring old school hip-hop and current hits. However, it is surprising that no songs by R&B artist Mario, who does a fantastic job in the role of Andre, are on the soundtrack - especially since he won 2 Billboard Music Awards in 2005. Regardless, the Freedom Writers soundtrack will get anyone swaying to the beat.
Whatever your race, nationality, gender, age or where you live, Freedom Writers should be on the top of your list of movies to rent - especially if you are a teenager, or have one living in your home. The soundtrack is fantastic, cast is superb and the story is inspiring.
Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older
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