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Review: Won't Back Down

By JAKE MULLIGAN  |  October 2, 2012
0.5 0.5 Stars

Daniel Barnz's picture turns the American education crisis into a dumbed-down, Capraesque crowd-pleaser, with a malicious agenda to boot. Parents (represented by Maggie Gyllenhaal as a dyslexic bartender) and teachers (Viola Davis, mainly) alike are tired of failing graduation rates at a Pittsburgh school, so they enable the "fail-safe law" — which allows, with the right signatures, a school to "start from scratch" by ditching its staff. But what does Barnz frame as the villain bringing down our already-low standards of education? It's not budgets, class sizes, or over-simplified curricula that take the blame, but rather teachers' unions (who, personified by Holly Hunter, are turned into sneering cartoon-style antagonists who talk openly about not caring about students). It's a corporate-studio movie purporting that the working class needs to turn against their unions to survive. The movie preaches about "hope" and "yes we can," but a slightly different buzzword comes to my mind: bullshit.

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