Maggie Gyllenhaal battles failing schools for the love of her daughter in her controversial new drama. Read on for details!
In the 1990s, Michelle Pfeiffer took on troubled urban teens in Dangerous Minds. More recently, Sandra Bullock went all out for wayward youth in The Blind Side. Both films moved audiences through the compassion of one mentor making a difference in the lives of individual kids. Won’t Back Down, opening Sept. 28, is an education drama for our more troubled times.
It’s a hard knock life in St. Louis: Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Jamie, an overworked single mother motivated by the love of her daughter – not just to raise up one classroom – but to take on a broken public school system itself.
Here are the top 5 reasons Won’t Back Down will have you cheering for change.
#1) It breaks the mold: Movies about gifted educators are often fish-out-of-water stories at heart: an inspired teacher determined to change lives, moves to the hood and gets jiggy for knowledge! Awkward white hip-hop dancing is soon to follow. Won’t Back Down doesn’t stoop to those cliches. It reflects the lean times in poor neighborhoods affecting people of all races today. Gyllenhaal’s character has to change the school in her district not just because she’s idealistic, (though she is) but because she can’t afford to live anywhere else. The film, inspired by true events, is about real people fighting for their own communities, and there’s dramatic power in a movie that admits the problems with schools reaches farther than urban ghetto stereotypes.
#2) Have a good cry: There’s some poignant moments in a movie that admittedly works hard to pull at the heart-srings. A climactic scene between a burdened, but gifted teacher, (Viola Davis) and her son, who suffers from a learning disorder, is a genuine tearjerker of mother-son bonding.
#3) Politics, Politics: This is a film about people first, and a call to action second. But don’t mistake, the movie takes on the touchy subject of teachers unions as the center of conflict. Good teachers are portrayed as so fearful of losing their jobs they’re not willing to go in for the progressive reforms that could help turn around their own failing schools. The problems with urban public education are perhaps more complicated than the sluggishness of one stubborn bureaucracy, but go for yourself and decide if you think the movie is fair to educators.
#4) Maggie Gyllenhaal: The actress’s committed performance drives the story’s entire momentum. Rallying an impoverished community to fix a broken system comes down to Jaimie’s determination, courage, street smarts, and in the end, might all be undone by her own lack of formal education. It’s an energetic portrait of the slightly manic, yet extraordinary personality-type who believes they can change the world, no matter the obstacles.
#5) The slow clap: There’s a moment in almost all inspirational films where a gathered mob is turned to whooping cheers by one particularly inspired speech. Whether or not you roll your eyes depends entirely on how invested you are in the characters. Won’t Back Down‘s sweeping score and scrappy cast of adorable kids may practically beg for your affection, but I dare you not to feel like putting your hands together for all that sentimental sap, at least a little, by the time credits roll.
Won’t Back Down is a production of 20th Century Fox, and Education Nation – a division of NBC News promoting informed dialogue in pursuit of improving public education.
— Gino Orlandini
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