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Won't Back Down (2012)

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Two determined mothers­, one a teacher, look to transform their children's failing inner city school. Facing a powerful and entrenched bureaucracy, they risk everything to make a difference in the education and future of their children.

Director:

Daniel Barnz
1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Maggie Gyllenhaal ... Jamie Fitzpatrick
Viola Davis ... Nona Alberts
Oscar Isaac ... Michael Perry
Holly Hunter ... Evelyn Riske
Rosie Perez ... Breena Harper
Emily Alyn Lind ... Malia Fitzpatrick
Dante Brown ... Cody Alberts
Lance Reddick ... Charles Alberts
Ving Rhames ... Principal Thompson
Bill Nunn ... Principal Holland
Ned Eisenberg ... Arthur Gould
Marianne Jean-Baptiste ... Olivia Lopez
Liza Colón-Zayas ... Yvonne
Nancy Bach Nancy Bach ... Deborah
Keith Flippen ... Ben
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Storyline

Two determined mothers with children who are failing in an inner city school in Pittsburgh join forces to take back the school, and turn it into a place of learning. But before they can change the school for the better, they must first battle the parents, the school board, and the teachers union. Because this is for their children, they won't back down from this enormous challenge. Written by Douglas Young (the-movie-guy)

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

If you can't beat the system... change it

Genres:

Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for thematic elements and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

28 September 2012 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Learning to Fly See more »

Filming Locations:

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$2,603,370, 30 September 2012, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$5,308,553, 18 November 2012
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Datasat | Dolby Digital | SDDS

Color:

Color (ACES)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Oscar Isaac'a character is very inspired by music, notably Johnny Cash. He would later go on to play a musician in Inside Llewyn Davis. See more »

Quotes

Michael Perry: When I drink, I ask nosey questions.
Jamie Fitzpatrick: When I drink, I marry losers.
See more »

Connections

References Norma Rae (1979) See more »

Soundtracks

Swing Keys
Written and Performed by Alex Wilson
Courtesy of 5 Alarm Music
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User Reviews

 
A Nutshell Review: Won't Back Down
29 December 2012 | by DICK STEELSee all my reviews

Won't Back Down may sound like an apt title for an action film filled with bloodlust, but it's more civil, although it is about picking a fight and doing battle against establishment that had not benefited nor served the average man, or in this case, woman on the street, and those that it represents, protects, or serves. The USA centric storyline will require a little reading up on the background of the Parent Trigger Law passed in California, which allows parents to enforce overhauls in public school administration, and basically have a say in how things are run. This story is inspired by that, written by Brin Hill and director Daniel Barnz, to become a true underdog struggle.

Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis headline the movie, playing the two interest groups that are affected broadly by change that's impending for the Adams Elementary school, where the former plays a single mom Jamie Fitzpatrick whose daughter Malia (Emily Alyn Lind) is enrolled in the school but being dyslexic, learns almost nothing but still got passed through the levels because frankly, nobody cares. Davis plays one of the many teachers in the school, but as Nona Alberts, she probably is the only teacher who cares about the proper education of her students, but is getting little support and attention. Add to that, she also has a son Cody (Dante Brown) who's a little bit slow to learn. Put two and two together, and joining forces, they would take on the administration, unions, and fellow teachers to try and convince everyone there's a better place they can elevate everyone's position to.

The film may seem to have an axe to grind with educational bureaucracy, since many characters on the other side are portrayed as emotionless, wanting to keep the status quo because rocking the boat doesn't serve their purpose (probably expanding their scope of work). The usual fat and lazy labels are easily applied to every bureaucrat, even making them take on the usual hiding behind the cloak of anonymity, or throwing arguments out the window because of technicalities, and the list goes on. Tasked to taking a stand publicly and individually, is probably in the fantasy fiction arena, but undoubtedly proving to be quite delicious an experience when things had to come to an explosive, though expected, conclusion.

And for those who are anti-establishment, you'd probably attest to the myriad of games and dirty tricks those in power will play, in order to squash ideas and ideals that are not to their advantage. Things like character assassination, coercion, threats made on livelihoods and jobs, and enticement with benefits to the leaders to give up the good fight and abandon the rest fighting for the same ideals. And if one is up against positions of power, then expect one's history to be scrutinized, and blotches made a mountain of. It will reveal character then, if one can stomach the good fight for something one believes in, or throw in the towel to back away, disappointing many in the process, especially those who had responded and heeded the call to assist.

Being a film, one will expect the usual Checkov's gun being cocked early and unleashed when required, providing meat into a subplot to show how deep the establishment's reach can get, especially when one is under threat. And the film is naturally never without a romantic angle, provided by another teacher at Adams Elementary (played by Oscar Isaac) who finds the time to romance the very busy Jamie Fitzpatrick, having to juggle a number of jobs, odd hours, attention paid to her daughter as well as to fight the good fight against social injustice. At times though, the pace and narrative needed tightening, as elements and scenes got introduced for the sake of adding some further depth to a character, without real necessity to do so, such as Nona's deeply buried history concerning her kid.

If looked from a bigger picture angle, Won't Back Down applies beyond the US school system context, and is often reflective of experiences of those fighting for causes they believe in, going up against a behemoth called the system, organization, or establishment that has resources and clout. It's a pure underdog story that could be enjoyed, even though it's about the dirty politics that get played out behind the scenes.


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