Sure, we had Music of the Heart, Mr. Holland’s Opus, Dead Poet Society, and Stand and Deliver. Freedom Writers is right up there with the basic inspiring teacher plot we have seen many many times. However, this one was special. It had Hilary Swank in a performance from her that is much more charismatic and natural than usual. It isn’t as cloying as the Blind Side, but more gritty like that film should have been. It also has a performance by a supporting actress that should have been a break out, but never happened. April Lee Hernandez as Eva was riveting. She has like a few clips she could have used. I am trying to wrap my mind around why the sappy voters ignored it, why the studios didn’t release it in December for Oscar recognition but shuffed it along to January.
It is a sentimental film, but it is real. Many kids relate to this and this remains a film many people of my generation recognize as an amazing film. It is just strange this made no awards impact whatsoever.
Well, it is indeed kind of eyebrow-raising Paramount didn’t even bother to give it a limited release just one week earlier in order to qualify Swank for the Oscars (not that she likely would’ve gotten much traction). That was around the time Paramount was throwing all of its eggs into the Dreamgirls basket and I don’t believe really pushed much else.
To be fair, though, Stand and Deliver and Dead Poets Society were significantly more acclaimed at the time than Freedom Writers and Swank isn’t Streep in terms of “can get in for anything.” Dreyfuss isn’t a half-bad comparison, but he benefited from a rather uncertain category (it was Cage, Penn, Hopkins and then a jump ball among half a dozen other guys for the last two), plus Dreyfuss campaigned very hard and framed it as something of a comeback for himself.
OSCAR FLASHBACK: Best Original Song (1955) – Long Before Patrick and Demi…
I think it suffered from a lack of support from the studio, and in terms of box office suffered in comparison to “Dangerous Minds” a far more crowd pleasing film, although probably more generic in reality.
I also think Swank simply suffered from too much competition in the Lead Actress race.