A young girl struggling to gain stability finds it in one woman’s home.
Review (with Spoilers)
Like most people, when I think of any Disney Princess I think some bubblegum pop image of someone who seems marketable, but certainly isn’t a dramatic actress. However, Vanessa Hudgens seemingly is trying to break this trend by taking on more challenging roles. Which, with help from the credible acting talents of James Earl Jones, Rosario Dawson, and Brendan Fraser, the question becomes: Can she be the one to break the mold, or show why hardly anyone takes the women who graduate from Disney seriously?
Characters & Story
Agnes (Vanessa Hudgens), also known as Apple, has had a very rough life. Her mother June (Rosario Dawson) is highly abusive, not that truth worthy, and has put her in a mental state where disappointment is expected from everyone. But, even with this mindset of things likely not going to work out, she decides to run away from her mom and seek out her dad Tom (Brandan Fraser). Now, Tom and June seemingly didn’t get to know each other well before June got pregnant with Agnes, and you can tell from certain scenes that the two of them were from very different social classes. Tom seems to be from an affluent family, one which he didn’t want to disappoint with bringing a kid home, and June, well we can only assume the worse when it comes to her family life.
Thus making it understandable why not only did Agnes run to Tom’s house, but how Tom reacts when he learns why his daughter ran away: She is pregnant. And with this comes the majority of Agnes’ journey as she seeks a way to survive, and keep her baby, all the while dealing with June and learning to trust people enough to allow them to help her.
Let me begin by saying that Vanessa Hudgens certainly does make a case that she is capable of more than most would expect from her. As we have seen over the last few years, she seemingly isn’t looking to shatter the image she built, like Miley Cyrus, but more so show she is evolving. For while Spring Breakers certainly could seem like Hudgens trying to destroy that High School Musical image which gave her fame, as I argued in the review, it really made it seem she was capable of more so getting into a character, rather than attempting to rebel against some image. With this movie, though, you can continue to see her evolve for it is almost a complete transformation. Not just because she has her hair cut, tattoos, and has the looks of a pregnant woman in the 2nd half of the movie, but because it seems she is really channeling her character and not just playing pretend.
What helps her story though is Dawson’s character who reminded me of a less developed version of Mo’Nique’s character from Precious. She was nasty, a bit broken herself, and helped drive Hudgens performance and perhaps push her toward really getting into character. Then, in the 2nd half of the movie, I must say that seeing Agnes amongst other pregnant teen girls, including the familiar face of Dascha Polanco of Orange is the New Black, really helped push this film through the last hour. For while you don’t get to really know any of the girls that well, even to the point of knowing their names, you can see potential stories in each and every one, and you sort of wish the movie began with Agnes there with flashbacks of what lead her to get to the shelter.
Overall, though, Hudgens is the one who benefits the most, with Dawson being in an excellent supporting role. As for Fraser and Jones, they make good supporting characters who help push the story along, but they didn’t do much for me performance wise.
Now, with the aforementioned praise does come the need to admit that the story does feel like it has a checklist in mind. However, being that the film is based off a true story, it is hard to really criticize this. But, as said, the 2nd half in which the girls come in is where the story flourishes, if just because there is consistency. When you first start the film, to about an hour in, I must admit I was bored watching the way the film plays out Agnes’ struggle with her father and his new wife. For, frankly, Hudgens seemed to lose her focus and let the character drift until June/ Dawson woke her up from her daze. Which is why I liked the 2nd half so much more and it is because I think with June getting intense, and the rest of the girls competing in a way with Hudgens, she forces herself to step her game up and be consistent in revealing this character and letting you in. While, in the first half, she is given this sympathy story which can feel shallow and forced to the point you really do think the writers had a checklist while doing the script to make sure you felt sorry for Agnes.
Overall: TV Viewing
In all honesty, while a likable film, it doesn’t hit hard enough to really get you deeply into what goes on. What makes matters a little bit worse is that Hudgens is still growing as an actress, so she is heavily reliant on her supporting actors to keep focused and deliver a quality performance. However, when Dawson or the girls from the shelter are present, you see that Hudgens definitely is getting better, more comfortable, and more confident, as an actress. But, being that she isn’t at the point yet where she can stand alone, much less with the first half seeming too formulaic, I decided to rate this as a TV Viewing type film.