Won’t Back Down is one of those movies that audiences love but critics hate.
Maybe “hate” is too strong a word, but Won’t Back Down takes a very serious subject—public education and failing schools—and makes it seem as if changing a school’s curriculum and faculty is pretty easy if—gosh golly!—you want it enough. It’s not meant to seem easy.
Viola Davis (as a teacher) and Maggie Gyllenhaal (as a working class mother) pound on doors, butt heads with the teachers’ union and deal with vicious character attacks. But those impediments are strictly perfunctory.
Anyone in doubt of this movie’s outcome has never seen a rah-rah movie before (much like anyone in doubt of End of Watch’s ending has never seen a cop movie).
More troubling is the movie’s treatment of unions and the children about whom all this door pounding and rabble rousing is supposed to support. Gyllenhaal, her kid beside her, outs the child as dyslexic in front of hundreds of people.
Wonder how that’s going to play at home with a kid who’s already ashamed? Plus, the kids everyone wants to save spend lots of time off screen. Won’t Back Down wants to be great but is totally remedial.
Regal Santa Fe Stadium 14; Storyteller Dreamcatcher 10, PG, 121 min.