Movie Review: Is ‘Won’t Back Down’ About Teachers’ Unions or the Failing State of Education?

Megan O'Leary, Staff Writer

Other than the spectacular view and support that Won’t Back Down gave to Pittsburgh, this inspirational movie gave Hollywood’s view on the educational system today. Many critics have mixed feelings about this movie. Is it bashing the Unions too much? Is it really “Based off of true stories”?

The movie started off strong, showing that 3rd grader Malia Fitzpatrick is Dyslexic and has never been shown or given the right schooling in an inner city school. Her mother Jamie Fitzpatrick, played by the Dark Knight’s Maggie Gyllenhaal,  is worried that her daughter can’t get the right education and she can’t be there as much for her daughter because Jamie is juggling a few blue-collar jobs that barely get them by.

After not getting chosen for a lottery into a private school, Fitzpatrick becomes determined to fixed the failing Adams Elementary and take over the school. She recruits a 2nd grade teacher at Adams, Nona Alberts, played by Viola Davis, to help the “take-over” from the inside of the school. She also has a son who has learning difficulties and needs extra attention.

Over just a couple of months, the woman gather up a large following of parents and teachers to fight for Adams. They called themselves “Parent-troopers” because they were at “war”. Over those short months, the ladies battle the Union front men who attack the school and the two women personally, and struggle to gain a hearing date to appeal to the school board before their term had ended.

The two women and the “parent-troopers” all show up at the hearing, along with many union teachers and supporters on the other side. The board reviews the case beforehand and comes in with an already decided mind set. But the women refuse to take no as an answer and demand a voice vote and explination. When each of the board members gave their reasons, the Parent-troopers were able to fight back. And in the end, the voice vote came out in their favor.

Hollywood, in my opinion, did a great job of conveying to the public that with a lot of hard work and determination, people can truly make a difference. Ambre Anderson from the Huffington Post agrees, “I appaud storylines that aims to make a difference and especially the real people who influenced it.” She added, “…if determination and a strong desire are the main ingredients of what’s needed to change the world, one corrupt school at a time, then this film graduates cum laude.”

But many are not feeling the same. Many Believe that is a movie planned to bash the teachers Union. Film Critic Kenneth Turan from The LA Times said, “Won’t Back Down avoids the most controversial aspect of the current education situation – whether teachers should be held directly accountable if students standardized test scores are weak – but it has no hesitation about creating a villain for all seasons: Teachers Unions.”

Whether this movie was meant to bash unions or not, I believe that it is worth giving a try.