Won't Back Down (2012) Poster

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8/10
Look Beyond the Controversy
truiz11 October 2012
For as long as there have been schools, there have been good teachers and bad teachers, involved parents and uninterested parents, naturally gifted students and those students who struggle. Perhaps there is more good than bad today, then again perhaps not. It can't be ignored, though, that there are schools, and even entire areas, where students are failing at an alarming rate. Teachers alone can't fix this. Parents alone can't fix this. Even most students alone, barring the most motivated and gifted among us, can't fix this. It takes good teachers, involved parents, and students who have made a commitment to excel, to fix this problem. That's what we get in Won't Back Down.

You might hate the supposedly anti-union message, or turn up your nose at the idea that a child is scarred for life by one bad teacher, but neither of these are reasons to disregard this movie. First of all, while the movie does spotlight the downside of teacher's unions, there is plenty of union-love as well. And secondly, one bad teacher certainly can make the difference between a child who loves school and a child who dreads it, even if it's only for one year. And one bad year of school, especially elementary school where every learning experience is a building block for the later years, can be devastating.

I am highly sensitive to movies with a heavy-handed political agenda. I honestly didn't feel that here. I didn't take this movie as a guide to removing unions from schools. What I witnessed was the idea that if parents, teachers and students band together to make their school a better place, they can hope for a brighter future. Student by student, school by school, we can improve education in America. That people want to fight over whether teachers should be protected rather than whether students should be given an opportunity to excel, well that's really the crux of the problem, now, isn't it?

Beyond the controversial topics addressed, I found this film to be very satisfying. The plot was well-developed, Viola Davis and Maggie G played well off of each other, the children were very good in their roles, and the pacing was steady. It's always inspirational to see a group of people with very little in common come together for the greater good, and if nothing else you will definitely get that here. How can we not enjoy watching parents engaged in the school system and rallying to secure the future of their children? Don't watch this to pick apart (or champion) charter schools, watch this to remember just who education is supposed to benefit. Watch this and remember that good teachers could use a little encouragement, bad teachers should be called out, the system needs to be challenged every now and then, and children will respond to their environment, whether it's positive or negative, in ways that will surprise and sometimes amaze you.
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8/10
"Wanna take over a school with me?"
zoerobe3 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Is this movie corny, clichéd, sentimental, etc? Absolutely. Are some of the characters one-dimensional bad guys? Yep. Is it financed by someone with a lot of money who has his own opinion on the subject? Sure. This is true of most of the movies coming out of Hollywood, including "Trouble With the Curve," which isn't getting half the flack this movie is. If you want sophistication and nuance, go see an art house film. If you want to see a heartfelt film that raises questions about education and the future of America's kids, you may want to give this a shot. Some characters are pro-union, others just want what's best for their kids, others change their minds while others don't. Some bureaucrats in the movie are willing to help; others flatly refuse. That's also true in real life, and all these viewpoints are represented in "Won't Back Down."

Maggie Gyllenhaal plays a blue-collar single mom who decides to try and get support for radical changes for her daughter's elementary school, after trying and failing to get her daughter a better quality education in the current system. Joining her are Viola Davis, a veteran teacher who is beaten down, but not yet fully defeated, and Oscar Isaacs, a hunky "Teach for America" type, who doesn't want to focus on politics, at least at first. Other supporting players include Rosie Perez, Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Holly Hunter, who all do a great job with an admittedly TV-movie of the week type plot and script, and I, for one, didn't check my watch once during the film.

The standout here is Davis, whose mother was a well-loved teacher, and who goes home and digs out some new material with which to challenge her young students, even before she agrees to the takeover plan. "We're all going to work a lot harder around here," she informs her class. "Including me." It's easier, in my opinion, to play the stereotypical young idealist crusader, whether teacher or parent, but how many movies flesh out the role of the crusty veteran? One message of the film, is that you don't have to wait for someone to change things for you. Even when everything around you is going downhill, an "average" person can still summon the strength to make a change in the quality of someone's life, whether big or small. And that's a message that's always welcome, if you ask me.
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10/10
Film with a heart made for those who have one
Vasiliy Brian Komendant7 October 2012
Reading some of the reviews here and elsewhere I was getting a feeling some people simply saw another film under the same title for I don't have another plausible explanation for the shortsightedness and narrow-mindedness of some.

The film is stunning in its emotional impact, immaculately written and stupendously directed, with incredible one-shots, meticulously motivated hand-helds, color nuances (overlooked by many) and above all breathtakingly thorough and subtle work with the cast. In the world of "block-and-shoots" and gimmicky self-indulgent "me-me-me's" this rare old school picture stands out and certainly makes many uncomfortable for it appeals to something buried under layers of tweets, pretense, status, rat races and such - the human heart. Human connection. This is the most life-affirming American film I have seen in over a decade without it getting too preachy, cheesy or boring. No chemistry between Maggie and Viola? That comment is beyond me. They are so different, they are so raw and painfully believable on their own, that their union gains power via this deliberate diversity of their characters. There is not a single face in a single frame that is not totally "there", the committed "non-background" nature of supporting cast and extras makes an incredibly detailed background, full of nuance, ever breathing and alive. As is every shot of the film.

The last comment I will afford regards the union matter. First if all - if someone really believes this movie is about unions (or against them) - I have nothing to tell them. They will be as deaf to my voice as they are to the writers'/director's which tells a story of mother's love, standing up for your rights, having hope and faith and moving mountains if necessary - if the loved one needs that. The school is just a background for all that to unfold, a setting, a subplot to me. Performances are Oscar-worthy, I could go on for pages and scene by scene describe the beauty and power of them (alas, only 1000 characters here). And one more word on the union issue - what makes this film so impactive and real is how valid both points are and how the film's creators made sure that nothing about that is black and white and took time to support and justify both.

So, if you are not ashamed to cry in a theater, if you are ready to embark on an emotional journey, if you are not afraid to think and doubt - go see this brilliant work of art.
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1/10
Like paying to watch a campaign ad
ljblind29 September 2012
While the actors in this film tug at our hearts, the force feeding of incomplete perspective causes one to question: Are we watching a screen play or are we getting played? The bad guys are too bad, and the good guys are too good. The film is also unbelievable in that the parents are without any alternatives but a drastic one. I left the theater with a disturbing feeling, not about our schools, but about the integrity of the producers, writers and director. The opening should have a SUPER that reads, A paid political announcement. You can get your money back from the management. What a waste of effort on such a timely issue as the quality of our children's education. So in the end a story about two caring women and their struggle to fix their school, is about a billionaire fixing the audience, truly an exploitation film.
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1/10
Dreadful Film in SO Many Ways
appianterrapts28 September 2012
Don't waste your time on this hackneyed, sloppy, simple-minded look at the education system in the U.S.. Although there are plenty of things to be annoyed, even outraged, about with regard to how children (especially low income ones) are educated in the U.S., you won't get any real insights into the complexity of the situation from this silly film. You'll just get aggravated regardless of which side of the issue you come down on. The only good thing about the film was Viola Davis' performance for the most part, but even she had several scenes that were royal clinkers, perhaps due to the pile of clichés masquerading as a script. Everyone else was either miscast, misdirected or just laughably one dimensional. Maggie Gyllenhaal was thoroughly embarrassingly over the top in such a bad way. Perhaps this was just a paycheck as the film was financed by people who hope to destroy the free education system in this country. This film certainly didn't bring any clarity or real humanity to the discussion.
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8/10
The Parent Empowerment Movement Has Begun... Embrace it!
gwen-488-24920728 September 2012
To Wont Back Down Critics: I am an Urban parent, so the question on the table is: "Are parents suppose to sit back and continue to allow education systems to continue to fail to effectively educate and keep safe millions of children because the defenders of "failure as an option" are not ready to embrace change in how we deliver education to children?

The Bottom line: if parents don't protect their children who will?

FYI the fictional parent Maggie was the actual "trigger" not some law! She saw a problem in the school and it "triggered" her into action! Don't be afraid that the modern civil/human rights issue has hit the big screen and the Parent Empowerment Movement has begun!
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10/10
The Story is Reality
kidsin cyberacademy29 September 2012
Ignore the claims of shallow character development, predictable plot, over the top performances. If you have children in urban or suburban public schools, you know they are failing your children, and that the big city school bureaucracy is unable to change fast enough to help your children. If you have tried to improve your child's school, you will know this movie is true, you will cry in recognition of kindred souls, you will be energized to keep trying. Go see it.

In our situation, we have some public school choice within our county system. Our older child (4th-graders) was selected by lottery to go to a magnet school for high achievers. Our younger twins (2nd-graders), did not get selected in the lotteries we put them into. So we pulled them out and put them into a new (year-old) hybrid "brick and mortar" / cyber academy. On-site teachers work in conjunction with on-line teachers, using the K-12 online learning platform to deliver the state school curriculum. My wife and I are excited about this model, although it is more work for us as it includes daily monitored online involvement with each child's learning activities and interaction with their teachers, plus volunteer commitment at the brick and mortar school. There is opportunity for more-individual pacing of learning, and more-flexible school-day requirements.
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10/10
It's a Battle for Education in 'Won't Back Down'
rannynm29 October 2012
A two-hour-long movie would be expected to have its high points and low points, but KIDS FIRST! youth film critic Anthony Aranda says his favorite "part" is, actually, the entire two hours. The 10-year-old sees this as a film that, he says, "can teach people a lot."

And this Twentieth Century Fox release has sparked some discussion by parents who, also, want to make sure their kids' schools are the best they can be. In today's economic climate of budget cuts, it's a strong reminder of how important education is.

Won't Back Down Reviewed by Anthony Aranda See his full review on video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zR_M4vA7r20

This movie is awesome. I love it because it has lots of emotion and it's all because a kid has a terrible school and needs a new one so his mom and a teacher help, and I think that is great.

This movie is all about a kid who has a terrible school. So her mom and a teacher who works at the school NEWSLETTER BREAK think it's a bad school, so they go against the school to try to make a better one. They have to go through a lot to help the mom's daughter as well as the other kids at the school.

Some of the main characters in the movie are Jamie (the mom, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal), Malia (the daughter, played by Emily Alyn Lind), Nona and Michael. My favorite character is Jamie because she cares so much about her daughter that she works very hard to make a new school for her daughter and to shut down the other school named Adams. How she does this is by writing down tons of paperwork, and instead of sleeping she has to go to every house to see if they could team up with her. Luckily, she has a partner named Nona.

I could not pick a favorite part because the movie is so good that the whole movie is my favorite part. If I have to pick a favorite, I would probably say when Jamie has a big party to try to convince people to go against the school. There are cookies, a news team, shirts, FREE rulers and, to top it all off, Jamie gives a speech on why they should shut down Adams and build a new school.

I would recommend this movie for ages 7 and up because it's really made for an older audience. I still like it a lot and I think that my brother might like it, too, and he's 7, so 7 and up is good. The moral of the movie is really good and can teach people a lot. Go out and see this movie; it comes out in theaters on Sept. 28.
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10/10
Making a difference
DarkVulcan2928 September 2012
A single mother(Maggie Gyllenhaal) who has two jobs, and is struggling to make ends meat for her and her daughter. Her daughter has a learning disability, and discovers that she is being treated unfairly at her school because of it, she goes to the school to talk to the principal, but with no luck. Can't stand to see her daughter suffer, and does not want to just do nothing, so she organizes a petition in hopes to make the school a better place for learning, with of a teacher(Viola Davis). But will they win this fight?

Magge Gyllenhaal is great, not quite Oscar worthy, but still great. Now Viola Davis performance was Oscar worthy, if the academy does not nominate her, I'll cry. They both have great chemistry. And supporting players do well also like Holly Hunter, and Oscar Issac. Some teachers need to see this film, in hopes of reminding them of what's important. Great film.
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7/10
Does the Education of the future matter to you?
IJIN_Studios27 September 2012
If you have a child in school tomorrow, or plan to have a child in school in the next decade, go see "Won't Back Down". Not because the writing is good, or the acting is good, but because the story could be from your own backyard, your own child's school.

This isn't a summer blockbuster like the "Avengers", and audiences loved the "Avengers", but none of us are super-heroes, nor will we ever be. We are all capable of being the type of hero so well portrayed by Maggie Gyllenhall and Viola Davis - Parents. Every adult, that experiences this film will understand that it does not take super-powers and a shiny costume to be a hero to a child, or a community.

So, yes, educating the next generation does matter. Who's going to be your Doctor, your Lawyer, your CEO in 30 years...a child being born today. If that child doesn't get an adequate education...how will they be able to achieve their dreams? How will our country survive through a generation of D and C students?

Go and enjoy "Won't Back Down" for what it is - Sometimes funny, sometimes heartwarming, striving to make us all see that somethings are worth fighting for.
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