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“Won’t Back Down” – Early Review (POSITIVE)

September 13, 2012

“Won’t Back Down” is another entry in the genre of teacher/education drama. It’s somewhat formulaic; over coming great obstacles, doing what is right for the kids, and son on. But what makes this film different from the rest is that it doesn’t take itself so goddamn seriously, and it focuses on bigger aspects of the education system outside the classroom.

The film focuses on two determined mothers; Nona Alberts (Viola Davis), third grade teacher, with a son that’s suffering with his math homework in a very stressful way, and Jamie Fitzpatrick (Maggie Gyllenhaal), whose daughter suffers from dyslexia. These two women collaborate to transform their children’s failing inner city school into a school that will garner success in students, and give back that drive for teacher that the faculty has been lacking. Nona & Jamie face a powerful and deep-rooted bureaucracy; they risk everything to make a difference in the education and future of their children and everyone else’s.

Let me first begin by saying that Viola Davis continues to prove here that she is an incredible actress; raw when she needs to be and doesn’t have much trouble lighting up the room with her wit and charm. She’s fantastic in this film; this movie is really garnered by her performance. Maggie Gyllenhaal is fine, but she doesn’t have the same electricity that Davis ignites. I already foresee Davis becoming the new, dare I say it…Meryl Streep. I can already see her name earning another Oscar nomination for this film.

As for the film itself, it was better than what I was expecting it to be. However I think the movie does tend to fall into a trap regarding whom it’s trying to preach to. The films main focus is on the issues with teacher unions. It’s a touchy subject matter that literally splits people onto two separate sides. Yes, we all need to keep a steady job that will support ourselves or a family unit we provide for. The goal that Nona & Jamie are trying to accomplish here is to overturn their school so that teachers and parents can run it, which in essence equals NO UNION SUPPORT. The movie clearly shows that there is a challenge for getting the teachers as well as parents on board for this change and I can see that viewers will find themselves debating for or against this films message.

It’s tricky to get a clear message out there that seems truthful and honest in its approach. I’m not sure I see eye-to-eye by both party’s tactics on how to handle the matter, but I do respect a movie like this that challenges the viewers to have an open discussion after seeing such a film. I like it when movies challenge the audience, and have them walking out feeling mixed emotions. Sure it’s great to see a movie that will take you away from reality, but sometimes we need that film that gives us the real life reality check we deserve.

GRADE: B+

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