Where to start? This ill-advised film is supposedly "based on actual events." How gutless, and cowardly to begin with. What does that actually mean? It obviously is not true because they would say it is. If this is a few snippets borrowed from here and there, then shame on you. That's my guess.
It's a story of a young, impoverished young mother Jamie (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and her young daughter who live in Pittsburgh. Her daughter is dyslexic and is having a terrible time in the second grade with a non-caring teacher. So as Jamie tries to fix the situation she runs into road blocks all along the way. So she learns about a little known Pennsylvania law that allows in certain situations for parents to take over the school, and run it the way they want. - What?
Jamie then recruits the help of a veteran teacher Nona (Viola Davis). Her son is also having trouble in school, and she decides to go on this school takeover venture with Jamie. Nona tries to get more teachers on board, but they will have to drop out of the teachers union and go it alone and give up pensions and benefits. Jamie goes out and brings more parents on board and the movement swells. Can they do it? Can they run a school better than the state? That's Won't Back Down.
I will say this. This is a story that could be worth telling in its raw form. Education is an emotional issue for many families and parents. No quarrel there. And this could have been taken, and done in many different ways. They chose the worst way imaginable.
First the script is so amazingly terrible it's completely laughable. Story lines, situations, and dialogue that is so awful and insulting it's tough to sit still for. Characters that are shallow, predictable, and so overdone nothing can save them. My heart goes out to Gyllenhaal to a degree. I'm sure she was hoping this was her Erin Brockovitch role. Complete miscalculation. Her lead character is awful. They wrote words that came out of her mouth that are ridiculous. Plus, she looks like she is trying so hard to be really powerful and good, she ends up being a parody of herself. She could be lamponed very well by Saturday Night Live on this. She will go on to make better movies, but she is awful here, and it's only partly her fault. The rest? Just as bad.
What this turns out to be is an education bashing, union bashing lecture with characters on both sides speaking like they are testifying in front of Congress rather than starring in a movie. And you don't care one iota about one person in this movie. For some reason, Holly Hunter, and Rosie Perez came along for this downhill derailed ride, and they add nothing. Although no one could. This is one silly scene after another.
Few can deny that the education system on our country needs work, and can do better in all avenues. But this story is just putrid. If you want to make a movie that can make a difference, get a good script, a more powerful leading actress, and make it so we can bite into it. And for heavens sake, let's go all story and don't try to sell us on "inspired by actual events". Find us a true story, or make it a piece of total fiction. But don't try to B.S. us. What they want you to think is that this really happened. When most are guessing - it did not.
Here, if you want something that says "Won't Back Down" This is far, far better. And it's at the end of the movie. Over the closing credits.
Won't Back Down. - The movie. Awful - simply awful. Could be one of the worst movies of the year.