It's 1994 in Long Beach, California. Idealistic Erin Gruwell is just starting her first teaching job, that as freshman and sophomore English teacher at Woodrow Wilson High School, which, two years earlier, implemented a voluntary integration program. For many of the existing teachers, the integration has ruined the school, whose previously stellar academic standing has been replaced with many students who will be lucky to graduate or even be literate. Despite choosing the school on purpose because of its integration program, Erin is unprepared for the nature of her classroom, whose students live by generations of strict moral codes of protecting their own at all cost. Many are in gangs and almost all know somebody that has been killed by gang violence. The Latinos hate the Cambodians who hate the blacks and so on. The only person the students hate more is Ms. Gruwell. It isn't until Erin holds an unsanctioned discussion about a recent drive-by shooting death that she fully begins to ... Written by
Jamal (Deance Wyatt) is seen wearing a "Poly" jersey. Long Beach Polytechnic High School is Long Beach Wilson's biggest rival. See more »
The scene where Miep Gies tells the day Anne Frank was captured was told with some factual errors. Gies never went back to her house that very day to get bribery materials. See more »
[following Erin's impassioned speech about the Nazi Holocaust]
What's a holocaust?
Who here knows what the Holocaust is?
[all keep their hands down except Ben, the only white kid, who sheepishly raises his]
Who here has ever been shot at?
[all raise their hands except Ben, who lowers his]
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I walked into the movie theater with the ticket in my hand thinking about how many other movies I have seen like the one I am about to watch. "Remember the Titans", "Stand and Deliver", "Dangerous Minds", and the list goes on and on. And so I sat in my comfy chair that rocks back and forth so my back doesn't get stiff. Of course, my theater has stadium seating so someone's big head doesn't get in the way of my movie experience. And of course, I had to sit in the row with the railing in front of it so I could put my feet up, because I wasn't going to be uncomfortable while I play critic for this movie...what are you, crazy? Then, the movie began. and it ran and I was quiet. I laughed a little and cried a little, but not for one second was I criticizing. As I saw the characters go through their horribly troubled lives and while I was reminded of little Anne Frank, I became somewhat guilty about silently complaining that I got the squeaky seat or that my friend ate all the popcorn five minutes into the movie.
Likewise, when the movie was over, I had nothing negative to say. It wasn't that I was biting my tongue, it was that I wasn't paying attention to the mistakes of the movie (wherever they were) because I was so engrossed in the plot...you know, the one I said had been done before. the movie made me realize that gang violence and racial intolerance are just as big issues today as EVER. And I decided that as long as people are isolated because of their race and as long as people innocently die in the midst of a gang war, it's okay for this plot to live on...it gives hope to those who go to bed with one eye open, and who go to school everyday wondering if they'll live to see their own graduation.
And for me? For someone like me who complains about hastily eaten popcorn? It makes me count my blessings just a LITTLE bit more frequently. And any movie with a tired, overdone plot that can do that...well, it's fine by me.
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