Hilary Swank, one of my favorite actresses, has a wonderful smilea big, toothy entity that exudes joy in bucketloads. As much as I love seeing it, director Richard LaGravenese shouldve instructed her to take it down a notch for Freedom Writers
, a big-hearted movie done in by an uncharacteristically overdone performance by Swank, as well as a script, based on actual events, that feels a little too cute for comfort. Swank plays a real-life teacher who helped inspire inner-city, at-risk students to eschew the gang lifestyle for academic pursuits. While the actual story is uplifting, and the book its based upon is probably a compelling read, the big-screen adaptation feels too cutesy. Patrick Dempsey plays Swanks put-upon husband while Imelda Staunton plays a senior teacher who thinks Swanks teacher is nothing but a hotshot. This is a well-meaning movie plagued by clichés and overdone emotions.