Predictability plagues “Freedom Writers”

Bridget Nordquist

Bridget Nordquist

In the time of year when hard-hitting, Oscar-worthy films can weigh heavily on one’s mind, it’s nice to enjoy the occasional “fluffy” movie. Such a film is “Freedom Writers.” It likely won’t win any awards or even attract much attention in the whirl of awards season. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed this movie with only a few minor complaints.

The plot is unashamedly typical. A white teacher goes to a racially diverse school with a mission to change the world. At first, she is surprised and saddened by the intense hatred and division that tears her students apart. She soon finds a way to bring them together. Cheesy inspirational speeches abound.

Admittedly, this film may be too predictable and cheesy for some, but I still found it rather moving. Contrived as it may be, the story is based on the actual work of California teacher Erin Gruwell. It succeeds in its mission much better than other “based-on-a-true-story” flicks such as “Gridiron Gang.” Here, instead of perfecting the typical sports team mentality, the students come together by writing diaries that allow them to share their experiences with one another. As an English major and a writer, I found this (tacky as it may be) very inspiring. I won’t mention how many times I succumbed to tears. At the end, we learn that the diaries were collectively published as a book just a few years ago.

The cast is led by the ever-talented Hilary Swank. Swank is a two-time Oscar winner for work in films “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Million Dollar Baby.” Although I’m generally a fan of Swank’s, I did find her characterization of the teacher a trifle annoying. She came across as painfully na’ve and too idealistic to be believed.

Swank’s character also became so obsessive that she divorced her husband, played by Patrick Dempsey. How anyone could chuck aside the flawless Dempsey (McDreamy from “Grey’s Anatomy”) is beyond me. Eventually, though, Swank grew on me toward the end of the film when she unflinchingly fought to continually improve the lives of her freedom writers.

In all, the film may not be the must-see movie of the year. However, it offers many compelling moments strong enough to inspire a skeptic like myself. Because “Freedom Writers” is a true story, it has enough power to draw a few tears, a couple of laughs, and overall, a good time at the movies.