Bad Teachers Beware

Inspired by true events, this movie shows how two moms, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis, find the courage to change a failing school and improve their children’s lives despite the lack of financial resources, loads of negativity and spiraling red tape.

Viola Davis in Won't Back Down

4 out of 5 stars: Perfect for moms with kids in public school

Single-mom Jamie (Maggie Gyllenhaal) sends her dyslexic daughter to an inner-city public school in Pennsylvania, but she grows distraught when the beleaguered teacher won't address her daughter's inability to read. She pleads with other teachers and administrators to move her daughter to another class, but nothing changes. The school is under siege by budget cuts, low morale, antiquated rules and a union that protects bad teachers.

Won't Back Down class

Nona (Viola Davis) is a teacher at the school but has family problems of her own. As her marriage is falling apart, her own son is being bullied at school, and Nona also feels the burden of the failing school system.

Jamie soon discovers that if she can get the support of 18 of the school's teachers along with a group of parents, they can shut down the current administration and start anew with a charter school. But many hazards await.

Using her talents as a salesperson — she works in a used car lot — Jamie convinces Nona to start a campaign to start a charter school. But the teachers are not easy to convince. Teacher Breena (Rosie Perez) is torn between keeping her current safety net and risking her job to make a better educational experience for the kids. Under pressure from the teacher's union, it's no easy decision.

Won't Back Down

The head of the teacher's union is Evelyn (Holly Hunter), an opinionated woman who comes from a long line of union activists. Evelyn seeks out Jamie and offers her a deal that puts the charter school's success at risk. It's discouraging how political public education can be.

Gyllenhaal shines as Jamie, a tattooed, overworked mom who is full of fight. Her love interest, Michael — played by a charming Oscar Isaac — adds depth and complexity to a story that could be boring and straightforward. There are no easy decisions in this David and Goliath tale where our kids' futures are at stake.

Bottom line: This is a powerful story about parenthood, determination and courage. Anyone who's ever gone up against the status quo, or wanted to, will be moved by this story.

Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

Tags: rosie perez

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Comments on "Won't Back Down movie review: Moms with a mission"

BigSean September 28, 2012 | 10:47 AM

You do realize this movie was funded by a billionaire with ties to right wing hate groups and anti groups and that he also has a vested interest in getting teachers unions out of his way so he can make more millions off privatizing public schools and hiring rookies with 6 weeks of training in a TFA camp. Ahhh but none of you want to hear any unpleasant facts, you've got your feel good fiction and that's all that matters. P.S. teachers don't vote in trigger laws, the movie pretends they do and word of warning parens, once you vote to turn your kid's school over to a charter corporation your participation is over. They do not solicit parent input and if your kid has a learning problem like the kid in the movie a charter will get rid of him so he doesn't drag down your test grades. Sorry to bring all the bad news but there's nothing dignified or uplifting about being lied to by movie makers who have a financial axe to grind with teachers and a profit motive drivingf them not the good of kids.

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