Freedom Writers

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Woodrow Wilson High School has just hired a new teacher, an ambitious new educator named Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank). She is optimistic about the chance to teach, but this school isn’t home to the most receptive minds. The school is plagued with racial tension and the gang presence looms over the area. When Erin is introduced to her class, she finds herself surrounded by students who have little to no interest in education. Their minds are elsewhere and even as ambitious as Erin is, the task of creating some interest in this class will be daunting. In addition to her position, Erin has to deal with pressure from her fellow teachers and her husband Scott (Patrick Dempsey). The class is unreceptive to Erin at first, but she refuses to give up and with each failure, she returns twice as hard with a new idea. She wants to focus on tolerance, so she teaches about the Holocaust and takes a field trip to the Museum of Tolerance, which sparks some genuine reaction from the students. But can she motivate the class to do more with their lives, or will her message be lost on their ears?

This premise is one we’ve seen mined numerous times before, a teacher tries to inspire troubled teens and wins over everyone in the process. A movie like this seems to come out every couple or three years, none really stand out anymore, different only in what type of class is taught and who plays the lead role. At least in the case of Freedom Writers, we have double Oscar winner Hilary Swank in the lead, so we know the film has a good foundation. But Swank can only do much with this formulaic material and with no real chance to shine, she comes off as serviceable, but unremarkable. Freedom Writers isn’t a bad movie, but it isn’t a good one either, its just there and never really stands out. I think some elements work well, such as Swank’s connection with her students, but by the same token, her detractors are stereotypes and poorly handled. The problem here is that this is well worn ground and the filmmakers do nothing to make this movie rise above the pack. So unless you just can’t get enough of this kind of movie, Freedom Writers has little to offer. As I said, Swank is solid and the movie does show potential at times, but the filmmakers settled for creating a retread, so the only recommendation I can make is a rental.

Video: How does it look?

Freedom Writers is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This movie made a light speed jump from screen to disc, so as expected, the transfer looks terrific. The source print is almost pristine and shows minimal grain, which means the visuals come across in sharp and ever impressive form. The colors stream across the screen in vivid hues and no signs of flaws, while flesh tones seem natural and consistent also. No issues in terms of contrast either, as black levels are razor sharp and no visible detail loss is evident. The transfer is also free from compression errors, which means Paramount has provided a great visual effort.

Audio: How does it sound?

The included Dolby Digital 5.1 option is more than solid, but of course, this is a dialogue driven picture and that means limited surround use. The musical soundtrack sparks the speakers at times, but aside from that, this one is anchored in the front channels. The dialogue is clean and crisp in this mix, with no volume or clarity issues to contend with. As far as dialogue reliant flick soundtracks go, this is a good one and while it isn’t that active, all the elements seem in order. This disc also includes a 2.0 surround option, a French language track, and English subtitles.

Supplements: What are the extras?

You can listen to director Richard LaGravenese and star Hilary Swank in an audio commentary track, but don’t hope for in depth technical information. Instead we get a lot of praise for the cast and crew, a few production anecdotes, and some narration of what happens on screen. As far as featurettes, we have one that examines the story behind the film, as well as a couple of general behind the scenes pieces. None really offer much depth, but as far as promotional featurettes are concerned, these aren’t as bad as some out there. This disc also includes some deleted scenes, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.

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