In this most recent at-risk teen drama (based on a true story), Hilary Swank plays Erin Gruwell, a young, naïve, first-time English teacher in rough-and-tough Long Beach. She is overly excited about her new job, even when she learns that her students are a bunch of gangbangers, half of whom read at a fifth-grade level. She gets the obligatory “you don’t understand our world” speech from the teens and in response hands out journals and asks that everyone write something—anything—every day. Parts of the movie are even told through the students’ journal entries—offering a glimpse into their “world.” The students are the stars here—it’s not Swank’s finest work and Patrick Dempsey, who plays her husband, is miserably flat. R&B singer Mario and April L. Hernandez are convincing as teen thugs and ultimately are the ones we end up caring about.