Won't Back Down

Directed By: Daniel Barnz

Starring: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Holly Hunter, Oscar Isaac, Rosie Perez, Ving Rhames, and Marianne Jean-Baptiste

Sometimes, I watch a trailer, and I just know a movie will be bad.  I don't have to have any reasons.  I don't have to have any evidence.  I just know.  More often than not, I'm unfortunately right.  I just knew that I was in for a bad one when I saw the trailer for the drama Won't Back Down several months ago.  Because the movie addresses the joke we call an educational system in America, I would like to say that I was wrong about this one.  I had anything but high expectations for the film.  Sadly, I was right.

Jamie Fitzpatrick (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a single mother trying to raise her dyslexic daughter Malia (Emily Alyn Lind).  Working two jobs as a receptionist and a bartender, Jamie does her best to provide for her daughter.  Unfortunately, she can't say that Malia's teacher at Adams Elementary is doing the same.  Nona Alberts (Viola Davis) is a teacher at Adams Elementary who has all but given up on the profession.  Going through some tough times with her husband Charles (Lance Reddick), she also is seeing firsthand how Adams Elementary is failing her son Cody (Dante Brown).

Fed up with Adams Elementary and desperate to find a better, healthier academic environment for Malia, Jamie goes to the superintendent's office to learn more about her options.  There, she chats with a receptionist and learns of a law that allows parents and teachers to take over failing schools.  Though there are a lot of hoops through which she'll have to jump, Jamie is ready to do whatever she has to do for her daughter.  She plans to lead a takeover of Adams Elementary.  First, she needs 400 parents and 18 teachers to join her in her quest to improve Adams.  The first person on her list is Nona Alberts.

Won't Back Down is a sappy film that will always appeal to a certain type of moviegoer — the Lifetime fan.  Since I'll never convince those old girls that this movie is no good, I'll cater this review to everyone else.  Won't Back Down is a movie that's not poorly acted or conceived.  It's just poorly executed.  Completely predictable and full of clichés, this film is entirely too long.  More importantly, it lacks coherence.  Major plot points don't flow together well.  It's Daniel Barnz's job as director to connect the dots throughout the film and build this coherence.  Otherwise, some of the film's major events feel seemingly random.

While Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis give decent performances, they don't do anything special.  They just play the same types of characters they always portray on the big screen.  Gyllenhaal plays this strong woman who lacks depth.  Meanwhile, Davis portrays a nervous, antisocial character who underestimates her own abilities but eventually finds her strength while fighting for what she believes in.  They've both given us characters like this in other, better movies.

Won't Back Down gives an accurate depiction of the disparities across the educational system in America.  However, don't mistake this accuracy for quality.  This isn’t a documentary.  It’s a drama.  Moreover, Won't Back Down is an incoherent film that's overly predictable and way too long.  Like Chairman Olivia Lopez (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) of the Board of Education, I need a few blue mojitos.  Won't Back Down gets a 0.09% rating.