FREEDOM WRITERS: DVD
Fresh out of training, young teacher Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank) arrives for her first job at Wilson High and is thrown into the deep end with a class of ethnically mixed juvenile delinquents, most of whom are underprivileged and/or racial gang members. They are not interested in Homer unless it's Simpson, but Erin perseveres, much against the wishes of her department head Margaret Campbell (Imelda Staunton) and other colleagues who think Erin is wasting her time on kids who are destined for the dustbin of society. Slowly and with difficulty, Erin finds a way to capture their attention just as they manage to capture hers and they change each other. The diaries she encourages them to write as part of the English learning process comes to be christened Freedom Writers, alluding to the civil rights activists, Freedom Riders, who rode on racially integrated buses in the 60s, 30 years before.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Richard LaGravenese's film, based on the book by Erin Gruwell herself, is a moving example of how one person can make a difference, and for all the right reasons, all contained within the inspirational classroom drama genre. Hilary Swank is terrific as Gruwell, whose marriage broke up partly as a result of her endless hours spent with the kids, even after hours. She starts as a naïve newcomer whose ideals are her strength; but they are not merely ideals to talk about, but to act on. She ruffles the feathers of her colleagues, confronts her class with their ignorance and is herself confronted by their violent, depressing reality. Their grungy appearance contrasts with Erin's classy clothes and pearls, yet her prospects of success here seem as dim theirs.
The encounter changes them all, and the film is the story of how that change occurs, what pain it brings and what it achieves. The real story is even bigger, longer and complex, but the film does it justice, even thoug it is flawed; there isn't much sense of the time span, other than a caption to indicate a new semester, and some of the early scenes are unclear. Perhaps inevitably due to compression, the resolution seems a bit too pat. But the performances are superb, notably all the kids in the class, whose lives appear hopelessly pre-determined, destined for waste.
The film tugs at our hearts with its sincerity while the uplifting moments are hard earned by a difficult journey. It's a life lesson and an insight into then human condition, showing both its darkest and brightest sides.
DVD special features include an audio commentary by Richard LaGravenese and Hilary Swank, plus deleted scenes, featurettes, photo gallery, trailer and more.
Published September 20, 2007
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FREEDOM WRITERS: DVD (M)
CAST: Hilary Swank, Scott Glenn, Imelda Staunton, Patrick Dempsey, April L. Hernandez, Mario, Kristin Herrara,
PRODUCER: Danny DeVito, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher
DIRECTOR: Richard LaGravenese
SCRIPT: Richard LaGravenese (book by Erin Gruwell)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jim Denault
EDITOR: David Moritz
MUSIC: Mark Isham, RZA
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Laurence Bennett
RUNNING TIME: 123 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 22, 2007
SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio Commentary with Richard LaGravenese & Hilary Swank; Deleted Scenes; Making A Dream; Freedom Writers Family; Theatrical Trailer; Freedom Writers: The Story Behind The Story; Photo Gallery.
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
DVD RELEASE: September 20, 2007