Review: ‘Won’t Back Down’ features stirring performancesWritten by James A. Molnar | The Gold Knight | firstname.lastname@example.org
“Won’t Back Down” begins with a little girl trying to read.
She gazes upon the blackboard, trying to sound out each letter of each word in the sentence. She struggles. Her classmates make fun of her. The teacher is sitting at her desk, looking at her cell phone.Finally, the girl gives up and says, “I can’t.”
Meet Malia Fitzpatrick (Emily Alyn Lind). She is at Adams Elementary School, has dyslexia and struggles with reading.
Her mother, Jamie (Maggie Gyllenhaal), sees that Malia’s educational environment is less than ideal and wants to change this.
“Why do I have to let her down on this?” she asks, referring to the fact that she is a struggling single mother and wants the best education for her daughter.
The problem at hand, however, is that there are no other viable options. Private schools are too expensive and the other school in the area, which is performing well, has no room.
Jamie, who is worried her child will get left behind like she was, has to find a better option.Nona Alberts (Viola Davis) is a teacher at Adams and faces a similar problem with her son.
In the process of finding alternatives, Jamie comes across a “fail-safe law,” which allows parents to overhaul a school’s administration in under-performing public schools if petitioned.
She recruits Nona to help. Together, the two work to petition the school board to allow them to overhaul the school.
“Won’t Back Down” is from director Daniel Barnz, who also brought audiences “Beastly.” Barnz wrote the screenplay for this film with Brin Hill.
The acting and writing in the film is top notch for the leading ladies, including the teachers union’s Evelyn Riske (Holly Hunter). Everything else, however, is a little oversimplified and painted with broad strokes. The movie also doesn’t bring up how much overhauling a school would cost. And Rosie Perez is grossly underutilized as a teacher in the background.
For a better picture on the school system in America, those interested may be better off watching the powerful 2010 documentary “Waiting for Superman.”
“Won’t Back Down” may pull on the heartstrings with some very good performances, but it doesn’t inform and ultimately generalizes a very complicated issue.
Rated PG for thematic elements and language.
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Toledo Free Press Lead Designer and Film Editor James A. Molnar blogs about all things Oscar at TheGoldKnight.com. Watch him discuss movies on “WNWO Today” around 5:50 a.m. on Fridays. Also, listen to James discuss movies on “Eye on Your Weekend” on 1370 WSPD every Friday at 6 p.m.