6.4/10
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Won't Back Down (2012)

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Two determined mothers­, one a teacher, look to transform their children's failing inner city school. Facing a powerful and entrenched bureaucracy, they risk everything to make a difference in the education and future of their children.

Director:

Daniel Barnz
1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Maggie Gyllenhaal ... Jamie Fitzpatrick
Viola Davis ... Nona Alberts
Oscar Isaac ... Michael Perry
Holly Hunter ... Evelyn Riske
Rosie Perez ... Breena Harper
Emily Alyn Lind ... Malia Fitzpatrick
Dante Brown ... Cody Alberts
Lance Reddick ... Charles Alberts
Ving Rhames ... Principal Thompson
Bill Nunn ... Principal Holland
Ned Eisenberg ... Arthur Gould
Marianne Jean-Baptiste ... Olivia Lopez
Liza Colón-Zayas ... Yvonne
Nancy Bach Nancy Bach ... Deborah
Keith Flippen ... Ben
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Storyline

Two determined mothers with children who are failing in an inner city school in Pittsburgh join forces to take back the school, and turn it into a place of learning. But before they can change the school for the better, they must first battle the parents, the school board, and the teachers union. Because this is for their children, they won't back down from this enormous challenge. Written by Douglas Young (the-movie-guy)

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

If you can't beat the system... change it

Genres:

Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for thematic elements and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

28 September 2012 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Learning to Fly See more »

Filming Locations:

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$2,603,370, 30 September 2012

Gross USA:

$5,310,554

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$5,378,228
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Datasat | Dolby Digital | SDDS

Color:

Color (ACES)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film cast includes two Oscar winners: Holly Hunter and Viola Davis; and three Oscar nominees: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, and Rosie Perez. See more »

Quotes

Michael Perry: When I drink, I ask nosey questions.
Jamie Fitzpatrick: When I drink, I marry losers.
See more »

Connections

References Norma Rae (1979) See more »

Soundtracks

Swinging Keys
Written and Performed by Alex Wilson
Courtesy of 5 Alarm Music
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Two Fine Actresses Lend Heart to a Jargon-Heavy Drama About Charter Schools and Parent Trigger Laws
3 March 2013 | by EUyeshimaSee all my reviews

If not for the emotional resiliency of the two lead actresses, this 2012 feel-good drama about the reformation of a failing inner-city Pittsburgh school would come across as no more than a polemic. However, Maggie Gyllenhaal ("The Dark Knight") and Viola Davis ("The Help") bring enough intense fervor to their roles of parent and teacher that this becomes a creditable film if not all that memorable. Director and co-screenwriter Daniel Barnz doesn't help matters much by stacking the deck so predictably in the script (co-written with Brin Hill) while tackling a serious exposition problem with a lot of education jargon that feels like it requires the viewer to take some preparation exam to watch it. Watching Davis Guggenheim's 2010 documentary, "Waiting for 'Superman'", is helpful since it covers similar territory by showing how students strive to become accepted into a charter school.

The plot here takes a more contrived route as it focuses on Jamie, a single mom holding down two jobs while becoming increasingly concerned about the lack of attention her eight-year-old, Malia, receives from her teachers in treating her dyslexia and dealing with bullies. Through happenstance, she finds a little-known piece of legislation based on California's "parent trigger" law, which allows parents and teachers, under certain circumstances and after rounds of approvals, to take over schools and run them entirely. This motivates Jamie to partner with Nona, a teacher at Malia's school, who has similar frustrations from an insider's perspective but has been stymied time and again by the system. The movie then takes us on their journey running through all the bureaucratic red tape that you would expect from an inspirationally- minded drama.

I give credit to Barnz and Hill for at least presenting a compelling argument against the cause by showing how the teachers' union would suffer major setbacks along the way. As Jamie, Gyllenhaal does her best work since her compelling turn as the struggling drug addict-mother in 2006's "Sherrybaby". She brings loose-limbed passion to her character's relentless drive toward realizing a charter school for her daughter. At first, Davis appears underserved by the script, but this actress has no problem conveying the gravitas and compassion needed to make Nona's evolution feel realistic. As Evelyn, the president of the teachers' union, Holly Hunter ("Broadcast News") - who would have likely played Jamie a couple of decades ago – brings palpable conviction to her character's increasing moral conflict. It's good to see Rosie Perez ("Fearless") again on screen as Nona's sympathetic fellow teacher. Other supporting turns amount to stereotypes as dictated by the script. The subject of the film is quite worthwhile, but the treatment needed far more texture.


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