Don’t you just love it when a number of amazing actors come together to film a movie? Sometimes absolutely, but you would be shocked to learn just how many of these ensemble films fail. It could be a variety of reasons why they don’t do so well. Maybe it is because we as an audience can’t choose a favorite, maybe it is because the movie can’t pick favorites and give one person the leading role, so they all play an equally important role. Maybe it is because so many famous names means that much lower of a paycheck. When it comes down to it, too much is too much and it just gets confusing. Sometimes it’s not too terrible though. While “Won’t Back Down” isn’t really an ensemble film, it does hold some recognizable faces in it such as Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ving Rhames, Holly Hunter, and even Lance Reddick, who is more known in the TV series “Fringe“.
The movie centers around the lives of Jamie Fitzpatrick (Gyllenhaal) and her daughter Malia (Emily Alyn Lind). Malia has a learning disability, which is dyslexia. Her school chooses to ignore her problem, as it has done for years, causing plenty of their kids to fail the school. Feeling the eye of the tiger, Jamie teams up with Nona Alberts (Viola Davis) to plan out and build a new school for special-needs children. The town isn’t so happy about this plan, though, as no one ever took them seriously, despite the fact that they know their kids are flunking the school. So against the wishes of almost everyone in town, Jamie sets her eyes on what is right, and what her daughter needs, and what plenty of kids need around the town, and she doesn’t let anything dissuade her. She…won’t back down.
It’s very simple to see the heart of the movie. Kids are our future, and it is our job to make sure that the paths to success are paved for them. It truly has a noble cause, but unfortunately the movie is quite…boring. It’s true, the movie is two hours and it really did not need to be that long. It is a very simple story with a very simple goal with almost no complexity to it. It is predictable and there are almost no surprises. It could have passed just fine with an easy ninety minutes to move things along. That being said, the acting was phenomenal.
It isn’t hard to be impressed with Gyllenhaal’s works through time. She is a master at her craft and knows just how to make her role, whatever that may be, believable. The same can go for a majority of the cast in this film, especially Viola Davis and Holly Hunter’s character as well. It may be more rare than it should be, but each of these actresses have strong and powerful scenes that shouldn’t be missed. The rest almost feels filler.
Once again we are hit with another film based off of a “true story”. Whether or not this is true, it feels more along the line of based off of “facts in general”. It isn’t a story that anyone will really recognize unless they were part of that specific movement, or were around the area that it happened in. It was more of an important idea than anything else. So it does not need the classification of being true. Generally speaking, we already know how bad of a state we are in around the country, the idea alone is extremely believable. We have a flawed educational system in parts of the country, we have a bad economy, but one thing we definitely have, is people willing to do whatever’s necessary for a cause.
The movie also ends with a single word cleverly placed in dialogue that coincides with the feeling of the film, “Hope”. The entire film is about hope, that all is not lost. However, we have to fight hard to get what we need in life, but hope is not lost. So does the movie have a good message, undoubtedly, was it executed properly? In parts yes, in others absolutely not. What could they have done to make it better? Shorten it by fifteen to thirty minutes tops. The movie had a good idea, it wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t fantastic either.
“Won’t Back Down” comes to Blu-Ray and DVD on Jan. 15!