‘Won’t Back Down,’ reviewed by Marshall Fine


It’s one thing when documentaries like Davis Guggenheim’s “Waiting for ‘Superman’” and Madeleine Sackler’s much better “The Lottery” look at problems in public education and offer some solutions (such as charter schools).

It’s something else when a manipulative drama like “Won’t Back Down” tries to lay the blame for all the problems at the feet of uncaring teachers and wage-grubbing unions. Never mind its bare relation to reality; it’s just too easy to lead people with Machiavellian pieces of entertainment like this.

Written and directed by Daniel Barnz (“Phoebe in Wonderland”), “Won’t Back Down” is set in a poorer neighborhood of Pittsburgh’s Hill District. Jamie Fitzpatrick (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a single mom who’s second-grade daughter is dyslexic; but she can’t get the kind of attention she needs at the neighborhood public school when Jamie is forced to send her there because tuition is too high at the private school the daughter had been in..

Her daughter, in fact, is in a failing school, in a classroom with an actively bad teacher, one who has no interest in helping anyone, let alone a child with a learning disability. It’s an effective and vicious caricature of those legions of people who only become teachers for the cushy salaries and the security of tenure, no matter how terrible you are.

This review continues on my website.

Back to Top