Freedom Writers

Posted on January 1, 2007 at 4:12 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for violent content, some thematic material and language.
Profanity: Some strong language, racial slurs
Alcohol/ Drugs: References to drugs, drinking, smoking
Violence/ Scariness: Gang violence, references to Holocaust
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: 2007
Date Released to DVD: 2007
Amazon.com ASIN: B000NOK1KC

Here is the formula for movies about idealistic young teachers who go into bad neighborhoods:


1. Idealistic teacher goes into bad neighborhood and is aghast at poor conditions and cynicism of the school administration.


2. Students treat teacher with contempt because he/she cannot possibly understand them.


3. Dedicated teacher demonstrates through persistence and unprecedented willingness to be honest that he/she deserves their respect.


4. Students begin to get interested in learning. But there are some setbacks, often involving a student’s home situation. The teacher’s personal life can also interfere.


5. There is often a montage and/or some kind of dancing sequence.


And this one clomps along, hitting all those notes, with double-Oscar winner Hillary Swank as Erin Gruwell, doing her best in a world that just doesn’t see how much these kids have to offer. Dr. McDreamy Patrick Dempsey plays her initially supportive husband, Scott Glenn her concerned father, and Imelda Staunton the harried principal. The students are played by an assortment of actors who all look closer to 30 than to high school age.


There are indeed some inspiring moments, as Gruwell has the students read Anne Frank’s diary. They learn that they are not the only ones in the world to be surrounded by random violence and tragic loss and begin to discover the healing power of telling their own stories. There is one great scene as Miep Gies (Pat Carroll in the film’s best performance), the woman who hid the Frank family, comes to the classroom to tell them that they are the real heroes. But too much of it fails to have the vivid detail necessary to bring it to life. Swank, who also produced, makes Gruwell too saintly and the students too generic for us to feel any real connection.

Parents should know that this film deals with students who are surrounded by and sometimes involved in gangs. There are references to violence and murders and some moderately graphic situations. Characters use some strong language, including racial epithets. There are references to drugs and sex. Characters drink. The movie’s strengths include its positive portrayal of racial tolerance, the importance of integrity and education, and the dedication and sacrifice of an idealistic teacher.


Families who see this movie should read the book Gruwell and her students wrote. They should also read about Miep Gies and Anne Frank. Every teenager should read her diary. They might like to try keeping a diary themselves.


Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy To Sir With Love, Up the Down Staircase, and Dangerous Minds. They will also enjoy the outstanding documentary OT: Our Town, about a Compton class that puts on a production of Thornton Wilder’s play “Our Town.”

Related Tags:

 

Crime Drama Movies

One Reply to “Freedom Writers”

  1. This movie is such an inspirational movie to me as a 16 year old boy. We watched this movie in an English class when our teacher was absent and I was amazed by it. I’ve looked everywhere for this film, including WalMart, KMart, Target, and local video stores and no one seems to have it in stock. But, this was a great movie in my opinion. I told my parents about it and they we’re very interested in that. The movie really shows how people live their lives day to day in a dangerous area of town. Your recommendations reminded me of an article a read about a while back about a group of high school kids were going to do the play “To Kill A Mocking Bird” and the high school didn’t have many people of the African American race to play some of the characters. So, the drama teacher contacted school around the area and found one and two groups of students came together to pull of a great play. Anyway, I will be looking into the recommendations. But, I just wanted to give my two cents on this movie.
    Thanks,
    Matthew Shaw
    P.S. A++

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