Hilary Swank, one of my favorite actresses, has a wonderful smile. A big, toothy entity that exudes joy in bucket loads. As much as I love seeing it, director Richard LaGravenese should’ve instructed her to take it down a notch for Freedom Writers. It’s a bighearted movie that is done in by an uncharacteristically overdone performance by Swank and a script, based on actual events, that feels a little too cute for comfort. Swank plays Erin Gruwell, a real life high school teacher who used unorthodox methods to teach at-risk, inner city school kids. The student stories are standard moviemaking, but some of the actors and actresses manage to pull them off. I especially liked April L. Hernandez as Eva, a Hispanic student who has witnessed a convenience store shooting and must testify in the trial. Overall, Swank strains a bit too much and is a little too saintly to be believed in a movie that feels like about 50 movies that came out before it.