We really like Maggie Gyllenhaal. We really like Viola Davis too. We like this picture of the two of them looking happy and emotional from 20th Century Fox‘s upcoming release “Won’t Back Down.” We like that the film’s supporting cast includes Holly Hunter, Oscar Isaac and Lance Reddick. Hell, we even kind of like the fact that Ving Rhames is in this movie. But that, I’m afraid, is where our optimism ends.
Why? Well the main reason is that it was both written and directed by Daniel Barnz. Who’s he, you might ask. Well, he similarly both wrote and directed the single worst film of 2011, “Beastly,” in which Mary-Kate Olsen‘s high school witch told Alex Pettyfer to “embrace the suck” in the fairy tale reimagining. Never has a title been so apt.
The film — which previously went by the title “Still I Rise” — will see Viola Davis’ teacher risk her career and friendships to join a revolt connected to the controversial parent trigger laws that allow parents to dump bad teachers and overrule administrators in bottom-ranked schools. Gyllenhaal plays a single mother who rouses other parents to take charge of their grade school. Holly Hunter will pay a union rep who loves her teachers and fights the takeover using underhand methods.
Walden Media are producing, and although they have a track record of delivering some pretty decent family films (and the documentary “Waiting For Superman,” which dealt with a similar topic), we’re not sure we’d like to see this premise filtered for a family audience. Gyllenhaal has compared her character to Meryl Streep in “Silkwood” or Julia Roberts in “Erin Brockovich,” and if the film chooses to go down those kind of routes then that’s fine, but with Barnz at the helm we’ll see if he can rise to the high ambitions of the material. “Won’t Back Down” will hit theaters in September.