Just a random post. No reviews or anything - caught this movie called Freedom Writers today afternoon on HBO (It's not just TV. It's HBO) :P. And, I was reminded of 2 other such movies which I had liked. Both not too popular but within the small circle that has indeed seen the movie, you will find nods of approval.
One such movie is October Sky. Directed by Joe Johnston (Honey, I shrunk the Kids! and Jumanji), this little movie is about Rocket Boys; a bunch of school kids in a mining town determined to make their own rocket. Supported by a really supportive teacher Miss Reily (brilliantly played by Laura Dem), Homer Hickam, who after watching Sputnik vanish 'forever' into space on TV is inspired to build his own rocket. He forms a team, and starts off on his mission to launch his rocket; much against the wishes of his coal-mining father. Some trials and a lot of errors later, the team does launch it's own rocket. Based on a true life story, this is a real hope affirming, smile inducing movie that hopes to restore hope and optimism back to life. Homer and his team, after having erroneously launched their first rocket now have to perfect the craft if they were to enter the national science fair. Needless to say, they do enter it and the film ends well - with white letters on the screen telling us that Homer goes on to become an engineer with NASA.
The other movie is Pay It Forward. Another small movie which boasts of Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt in significant roles. However, the movie is about Trevor McKinney (Haley Osment, of AI fame; son of Arelene, Helen Hunt) - a 12 year old kid, who despite a troubled family has hope in the goodness of the world. So, when his Social Sciences teacher Eugene (Kevin Spacey, looks stuck w/o a taut character sketch) gives the class a project that has the potential to change the world through direct action - Trevor sets himself onto the task. He meets a homeless guy and wants to help him, enroute which he formulates his concept of 'Paying it Forward'. There are 3 rules: (1) It should directly help a person (2) Something the person can otherwise not manage to do (3) You should do it for the person. And then, once done, the person receiving the help is supposed to help 3 others. It is simple. And before we know, we are drawn in by the films goodness. And though not really saddened by the tragic ending, the movie leaves behind a lingering feeling of us having the power of being able to change the world. Or at least some part of it.
The third movie, Freedom Writers, is again a movie which tells us anything is possible.Set in early 90s, in a racism-torn Los Angeles, the story revolves around Ms Erin (Hillary Swank, endearing in her role) who takes on her job as a teacher in a school which has launched an integration program to get students of all races in a class. She realizes on her first day at school that the set of students known as 'unteachables' are indeed so who need to be kept in class by security guards. There is an unfortunate accident which sort of anchors one of the girls in the class as the narrator and centerpiece. Slowly, but surely, Ms Erin earns the trust of all the students. She gives each one of them a copy of 'The Diary of Anne Frank' and encourages each to record their own past of abuses and victimization. The class slowly becomes a closely knit family. Students who barely attended school, now had hopes of graduating from their sophomore year to junior high. As a final year project, Erin has every student convert their diary into a book and calls the project ' The Freedom Writer's Diaries'.
There is nothing exceptional about any of these movies. The direction and acting is just about 'enough' to carry the movie through. The music isn't soaring, the photography isn't gripping. But each of the three are sincere movies, and by words or by action - the sincerity comes through. You feel good at the end of the movie. There is a lightness about the heart and a sense to do good. Not overtly inspirational, but it lingers on.
For quite some time.