The popular movie, Freedom Writers, is based on the true story of a Long Beach (CA) teacher who mentors a group of students following the LA riots of 1990. The teacher, Erin Gruwell, finds herself hated by her ethnically diverse "gangbanging" students (LaGravenese). Through writing, both Gruwell and her students work through one of the most tumultuous times of racial tension in the United States since the 1960s. In other words, the movie is indulging in a little hard-knock overkill. Every one of these 14-year-olds has been shot at? For a film that preaches that teachers should not talk down to their students, "Freedom Writers" kind of talks down a little to its audience.
At first, Erin suffers setbacks. The students ignore her and are unruly. Most stop coming to class. And all of them whine that she does not know anything about their lives, she cannot understand them and she's fooling herself if she thinks she can teach them. But Erin is creative in her ways of reaching out to them. What is more, she believes in them in a way that no one else in their lives ever has. The other teachers think little of them, as exemplified by a school administrator played by Imelda Staunton in a marvelously self-righteous and pinched performance.