Two-time Oscar- winner Hilary Swank stars in this gripping
story of inner-city kids raised on drive-by shootings and
hard-core attitude - and the teacher who gives them the one
thing they need most: a voice of their own. Dropped into the
free-fire zone of a school torn by violence and racial tension,
teacher Erin Gruwell battles an uncaring system in a fight
to make the classroom matter in her students' lives. Now,
telling their own stories and hearing the stories of others,
a group of supposedly "unteachable" teens will discover
the power of tolerance, reclaim their shattered lives and
change their world.
another inspirational tale based on a true story. Yet another
movie exploring racism and violence in America. Yet another
story of how an idealistic new teacher enters a difficult
classroom to transform the juvenile delinquents. We have seen
countless of these formulaic movies, so why do we need to
sit through another one?
we are human, and we feel for these stirringly rousing tales
of people overcoming odds to find light at the end of the
tunnel. And of course, because this Richard LaGravenese-directed
movie stars Oscar winner Hilary Swank and a very likeable
cast of unknowns.
on Erin Gruwell’s book “The Freedom Writers Diary:
How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves
and the World Around Them”, Swank portrays Gruwell,
who attempted to make a difference in a group of problematic
student’s lives. Along the way, these kids learnt about
tolerance, applied practical skills in life and went on to
pursue further education after high school.
of Gruwell’s character is evident in how she continuously
spurred the students on despite initial mocking rejections,
external administration pressures and her own personal struggle
to go on. Swank effortlessly portrays these emotions, which
makes the 122-minute movie easy to sit through. Supported
by Imelda Staunton’s uncaring head mistress (after seeing
her in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, we can’t
help but think that this veteran actress is spot-on playing
bitchy characters) and Patrick Dempsey’s affective husband,
the movie scores on a dramatic level.
real stars are the students. Whether it’s April L. Hernandez’s
daughter figure who is torn between filial piety and telling
the truth, Gabriel Chavarria’s quiet but angry Hispanic
boy, or Hunter Parrish’s misunderstood white student,
we find ourselves rooting for each and every of their stories.
The montage where their personal tales are being narrated
easily makes for one of the most moving sequences we have
favourite moment in the movie is when one of the girls confronts
Gruwell, questioning her why she didn’t warn her of
Anne Frank’s death in the book she was told to read.
For someone to feel so much for a book, we can see how much
impact Gruwell has on these students. And considering that
these events are real, one definitely cannot underestimate
the power of an effective education system.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
This Code 3 DVD contains an “Audio
Commentary with Richard LaGravenese and Hilary Swank”,
where the director and the Oscar winner talk about how thrilled
they are to have Staunton on board. Incidentally, when they
were recording this commentary, Swank has not seen this version
of the film, and genuinely sounds pleasantly surprised at
many of the scenes.
are 11 minutes of “Deleted Scenes” which
include four sequences that were removed from the final version
of the movie. One of them features the students watching Steven
Spielberg’s Schindler’s List to learn more about
five-minute “Making a Dream” focuses
on the use of hip-hop music in the movie’s soundtracks.
Musicians Common and will.i.am (from Black Eyed Peas) talk
about the associations between hip-hop and Gandhi. Interesting.
Writers Family” is a 19-minute featurette which
features the cast and the real Gruwell talking about how the
true story of the Freedom Writers have inspired them. Besides
the usual moving interviews, there are lighter moments where
Gruwell banter about the thrill of having Swank playing her
on the big screen.
Writers: The Story Behind the Story” is an
11-minute featurette which introduces us to the book’s
origins. Although this is somewhat overlapping with the earlier
clip, one can never get enough of inspiration stuff, right?
check out “Photo Gallery” and
“Theatrical Trailer”, “Photo Gallery”
which rounds up the palette of bonus features on
The disc’s visual transfer makes the ghettos and streets
look grittily good, and there are audio options of English
and Thai Dolby Digital 5.1.
by John Li