Monday, January 28, 2013

Won't Back Down (2012)

Wont Back Down
Directed by Daniel Barnz
Starring: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Oscar Isaac, Dante Brown, Holly Hunter, Rosie Perez, Marianne Jean-Baptiste
Grade: C+

As you may have heard, this story about a school upheaval in inner-city Pittsburgh caused a bit of a stir over in the states. Many responses to “Won’t Back Down” have cited the film’s source of funding (a right-wing billionaire) as a cynical outlet for anti-unionist propaganda (in order to revitalise the school the staff must cut up their union cards), but as is so often iterated in the film, isn’t the education system foremost about the kids? The film’s real – and rather major – shortcomings come from its familiar underdog-success-story formulae – most notably the notion that everyone resistant to change is an ogre or hag with no respect for ethics. Those characters who are enlightened upon get treated a little better, the relationship between the two mothers cannily alluding to the different strengths of each women despite being separated by academia. It finally lost me when a dramatic incident of backstory involving Davis’s character amped the level of manipulation up considerably, but I’m still inclined to defend “Won’t Back Down” for offering interesting personalities and conflicts to counter its run-of-the-mill narrative arc.

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