Published Sep 27, 2012Attempting to redeem himself from the atrocity that was last year's "Beauty and the Beast" dud, Beastly, writer/director Daniel Barnz attempts to deliver a "feel good" drama about the educational woes of the public school board system. Unfortunately, this loosely "based on actual events" tale is disdainfully clichéd, leaden, with disingenuous storytelling and direction, and cannot be saved by the Academy-nominated talent behind it.
Giving the most disappointing and irritating performance of her career, Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Jamie Fitzpatrick, an annoyingly optimistic single mother who works as a receptionist by day and bartender by night. When she discovers that her dyslexic daughter, Malia (Emily Alyn Lind), is being terribly mistreated and punished by her inadequate teacher, who's protected by the tenure law under the teacher's union at John Adams Elementary, Jamie teams up with Nona, (Viola Davis), a fed-up teacher who also has a son with a learning disability. Together, they form a coalition with parents and fellow teachers to take over the failing inner-city school in order to give the children the help and education they need.
Although Won't Back Down does touch upon real-life issues that parents, children and teachers can identify with, it simultaneously insults the viewers the film is aimed at, veering away from its primary focus of helping out the children by injecting a needless love interest sub-plot (involving Drive's Oscar Issac), a melodramatic divorce sub-plot, a cheesy montage sequence and an eye-rolling twist at the end that will make anyone wince, or possibly burst out laughing upon seeing it.
Even the competent support cast, which includes Holly Hunter, Bill Nunn, Rosie Perez and a cameo appearance from Ving Rhames, can't save the film from not meeting expectations and besides Jamie and Nona's children, all of the students of John Adams are just mere extras in this painfully overdramatic drama.
The film may be emotional and filled with heart, but it's hardly innovative or an improvement over the other school dramas that have preceded it. (Fox)