In theatres this Friday from director Daniel Barnz and Walden Media comes a test of wills and still they WON’T BACK DOWN.
This film tells the story of Jamie Fitzpatrick (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a hard working mother who only wants the best for her daughters’ education. Malia (Emily Alyn Lind) is dyslexic and in her new school the teacher would rather txt on her cell phone that teach.
Across the hall from Malia’s class is Nona Alberts (Viola Davis), a teacher who feels beaten down by what is expected of her to keep the status quo, and what she once believed in about educating children. At home her son is having problems learning and her husband is walking out.
Jamie notices Nona’s teaching style and tries to change classes. When the answer is no she looks for another way to make sure Malia, and kids like her get the education they deserve.
That’s when she enlists the help of a reluctant Nona deciding to take Adams Elementary over from the school board. When they aren’t fighting the system, Jamie is arguing with boyfriend Michael Perry (Oscar Isaac) who also teaches at Malia’s school. Nona needs teacher Breena (Rosie Perez) and others to make the idea a reality.
That means going head-to-head with those who are afraid of change!
FINAL WORD: Gyllenhaal as Jamie is semi-believable in this role. There were actually moments I kept thinking ‘why is she acting like she doesn’t know how to act?’ The character seemed over played, stereotypically off and predictable. I hate when that happens.
Davis as Nona has played this role before of the emotional down trodden person who wants to fight the system but is painfully shy and afraid of the outcome. That doesn’t mean I don’t absolutely love watching Davis do her stuff, not at all, I just hoped for more.
Isaac plays the role of teacher-boyfriend who is afraid of losing his job along with Perez who doesn’t want to be part of a shake up in the education system.
Other cast include: Dante Brown as Cody Alberts, Lance Reddick as Charles Alberts, Ving Rhames as Principal Thompson, Bill Nunn as Principal Holland, Ned Eisenberg as Arthur Gould, Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Olivia Lopez and Liza Colon-Zayas as Yvonne and the every lovely Holly Hunter as Evelyn Risk.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give WON’T BACK DOWN three tubs of popcorn out of five. Although this is based on actual events I am not sure that this will reach the audience it is intended for. The story becomes a little muddled with the cause of educating students with the personal lives of Gyllenhaal and Davis’ character.
The story is a good one to be sure, but it is difficult to follow along. Is this a movie about being poor? Is this a movie about learning disabilities? Is this a movie about teachers finding security in a system that doesn’t expect much from them? Is this about the administration’s “good ole boy (or girl) club” where they keep their big salaries and don’t want to lose what they have? Is it about the hopelessness of the lottery system? Is this about options in education? Is this about hoping someone else will try to do this and expect the same ‘movie happy’ ending? What?
This is definitely geared toward those parents who are concerned about the quality of education their children are getting in elementary schools to be sure. Now get the parents into the theatre seats and give the film some backbone.
In the end – if you can’t beat the system, change it!