Freedom Writers – DVD Review

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Own it on DVD April 17, 2007


Richard LaGravenese


Hilary Swank .Erin Gruwell
Patrick Dempsey .Scott Casey
Scott Glenn ….Steve

The Movie

What happens when you get some hypnotic urban music, mesh it with an acclaimed actor and merge them both into a world where a white teacher manages to teach a class of poor minorities the way to a better life? You get a plethora of films that all look and sound alike. Dangerous Minds, Take the Lead and Coach Carter, amongst others, have all tackled the plot of a “true to life” teacher who inspired their students to do better things. Put Hilary Swank into that category of people who’ve taken on these roles as she stars as Erin Gruwell in Freedom Writers.

Gruwell was a teacher in 1990s California in the aftermath of the riots that marred the period after the Rodney King verdict. Teaching English at a poor school, Gruwell has to try and reach the students in an age when race relations were a bit more inflamed. And if it sounds like every other film about a teacher trying to help disadvantaged minorities, that’s because it is.

Everything presented in the film is nothing more than has already been done in other mediocre films that make up the genre. There are plenty of tired clichés about race and racist people in Freedom Writers, presented in the most ridiculous and trite ways. It’s bad enough that the actors portraying teenagers are in their mid 20s, but the sort of things they say and how they interact with each other is almost insulting to your intelligence. As Gruwell goes through and teaches the students about the fun filled world of multiculturalism and respecting one another, it’s almost comical the way everyone reacts to each other in regards to their race. The script tends to stray towards creating emotional moments as opposed to crafting a narrative about race relations in Long Beach circa 1994.

That’s not to say it’s a bad film overall. Richard LaGravenese does create plenty of tense, dramatic moments to keep the film from being completely boring. It’s just that the film’s relentless focus on spotlighting race, as opposed to trying to create a story about overcoming it, really damages the sort of effect it could have. Erin Gruwell’s story is rather unique in the pantheon of American education and yet is given short shrift by a script that breaks out every single cliché in the genre.

The Audio

Presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1, the film has a terrific soundtrack. Infused with a more urban soundtrack from the era, as well as some scoring with a hip hop beat, everything comes through clearly and cleanly.

The Video

Presented in a widescreen format, Freedom Writers has a terrific transfer as well. The film has a lot of color and diverse scenery in it, and Long Beach, California, is shown beautifully.

The Extras

Deleted Scenes are included, and the trend with any film’s release is that the footage isn’t particularly noteworthy. In this case the trend continues, as nothing in the deleted scenes is really worthwhile or would’ve added anything to the film.

Making a Dream features rapper Common and the story behind the film’s main song. It’s interesting to hear Common talk about the various parts of the song and how it related to the film’s message, as well as how men like Martin Luther King Jr. and JFK inspired the song.

Freedom Writers Family is a behind the scenes feature that focuses on the cast and features an EPK style look at the film, et al. The real life Erin Gruwell even pops in to talk about her impressions of the cast and how much alike to her actual class they were.

Freedom Writers: The story behind the story is a feature that covers the events that inspired the film. Looking at the riots which came after the verdict in the Rodney King trial, the film follows Gruwell and features several of her former students as they talk about what that happened and their mentality afterwards.

A Commentary with Lagravenese and Swank is included.

The Theatrical Trailer, some Previews and a Photo Gallery are also included.

InsidePulse’s Ratings for Freedom Writers
(OUT OF 10)






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