FREEDOM WRITERS

REVIEW BY DAVE SMITH

 

Now let me think...we've had movies like Blackboard Jungle, Up the Down Staircase, To Sir With Love, Stand and Deliver, Finding Forrester, Dangerous Minds and now we have Freedom Writers. How is it different from the others? The answer is...not much.

Having said that, we can't deny this film has a punch. First, it's based on a true story. Of course we don't know how much the truth was stretched, but that's they way it is with all movies isn't it? The other thing is that Hillary Swank must have believed in this so much she decided to be the producer. The cast is strong. Not only is Swank believable as Erin Gruwell, the real-life teacher at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, but she has great support from actors portraying kids in her class. April Lee Hernandez, Jason Finn and Mario are particularly effective. Naturally from the day "Miss G" steps into the class and a fight erupts, we know she will eventually prevail and all of the students will become friends with each other. Knowing this however still does not diminish the impact when the change comes about.

"Miss G" discovers that no one in the class has any idea what "The Holocaust" was. She decides to have them read "The Diary of Ann Frank" and then takes them to a Holocaust museum. This experience hits home. Another dose of reality is how teachers can not get funds for simple things like...books. Many teachers today spend their own money getting needed supplies. If they want to do something innovative, they must face the entrenched establishment and the attitude that "we've always done it this way." Is it any wonder we have trouble getting good teachers?

The title of this film refers to the diaries Miss G asks each student to keep. They find this a great outlet and eagerly participate. When she reads the diaries to the class, they are surprised to see how much they are all striving for the same thing and how much their lives are similar. Freedom Writers may not be anything new but it carries an honesty and sincerity with it that is hard to ignore. If you aren't affected emotionally by this film, there must be something wrong with you.

 

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