|Co-stars Rosie Perez & Lance Reddick
If it weren't for Urbanworld, I probably would've passed on seeing Won't Back Down (of course they use the Tom Petty song in the closing credits). I saw the trailer prior to this week, and to me it looked like one more inspirational "true" story that Hollywood loves to make every so often. The depressingly generic and unimaginative title certainly didn't help.
|Lance Reddick, with his wife
Anyway, it turned out to be exactly as I expected, but I gotta admit, I was entertained by it, and that was due to the outstanding work of the film's stars, Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal. The latter plays a single Pittsburgh mom with a dyslexic daughter, trying to find a better school for her than the one's she's in, until she learns about a way to organize parents and teachers together into forging a better school system, even though it means defying the powerful teachers' union. Davis plays the first teacher Gyllenhaal recruits for the cause, one with a learning disabled child of her own, as well as a terrible secret.
|Co-star Dante Brown
Still, the film does follow all the familiar Hollywood beats - romantic subplot, darkest hour, rally from an unexpected source, final confrontation - and the outcome is never in any real doubt. It's a formula that doesn't provide much in the way of surprises.
That said, however, Gyllenhaal and Davis make it watchable. I never really gave Gyllenhaal much thought beyond being Jake's sister, but she was powerful in a great role that let her shine. As for Davis, she had me from the start, but she also has a crucial late scene with her son that sold me on the entire film. She didn't oversell it - god knows she could have - but it was one more reminder of why her work is so admired by her peers. (If only it was admired enough to have given her that Oscar...)
Being Mary Jane
Dar He: The Lynching of Emmett Till