If the story of Freedom Writers seems familiar it maybe because you read true story of Erin Gruwell, a newbie teacher from a wealthy family who chose to work with inner city school kids in Los Angeles. After a rough start she finally got through to the kids by encouraging them to keep journals of their life experiences. These diaries gave the students a voice to express their inner most feelings and gave Gruwell insight into their needs. Using the knowledge gathered from the diaries she tailored a set of courses for the kids that inspired many of them to quit gang life and become productive members of society.
It might also sound familiar to you because we’ve seen lots of inspirational teacher movies—Dangerous Minds and Coach Carter (which managed to be an inspirational teacher and coach movie in one) come to mind—that have essentially the same plot.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Hollywood movies tend to self-plagiarize quite successfully, changing the odd detail here and there, to create something new that seems somehow familiar.
Freedom Writers isn’t a bad movie, it just isn’t as memorable or important as the filmmakers would like to have us believe. It has some moments that resonate, a few good performances and a good message, but those qualities are wrapped up in such a standard packaging that the movie has little impact.
The cast of the new Garry Marshall film, New Year’s Eve, had a great time making the movie, but haven’t always had the best time on December 31st.
Josh Duhamel says the key to enjoying the night is keeping “expectations low” and leaving by 10:30 p.m.
Hector Elonzo, who has appeared in all 17 of Marshall’s films, agrees.
“Expectations low, definitely,” he says. “I did have one lousy New Years, because I expected something from it.” He tells a story about being a musician “in the days of rocks and caves, before they knew the world was round.”
His jazz quartet scored a show — “New Year’s Eve was the big gig,” he says, “that’s when you made $50!” — to discover the audience didn’t go for their New York brand of cool jazz. “They were like an oil painting looking at us. That was a big let down for us”
“When I stopped wanting my New Year’s Eve to be perfect is when it started working out right,” chimes in Hillary Swank, who plays the producer of the Times Square New Year’s Eve show in the all-star film. “When I was young I was always looking for the best party to ring in the New Year, and I always ended up in a car saying, (sadly) ‘Happy New Year.’”
“I got to kiss the girl I really liked, and then she turned around and kissed seven other people,” says director Garry Marshall. “Not a good night.”
But not all his end of the year experiences have been bad. In the early ’60s he met his wife Barbara at a New Year’s Eve party, and the two are still married. In fact she has a cameo in the movie playing a nurse.
Abigail Breslin may have an Oscar nomination under her belt, but that doesn’t mean she can do whatever she wants on New Years.
“My parents are cool,” says the 15-year-old actress, “they let me do things.” But would they let her behave like her on-screen character and go to the biggest New Year’s party on earth?
“I was saying the other day in an interview, ‘I’m not really sure my mom would let me do New Year’s Eve in Times Square.’
And she was like, ‘You’re right. I wouldn’t.’ So I don’t think that’s going to be happening any time soon.”