WON'T BACK DOWN
October 15, 2012
This reviewer almost decided against writing a review of this movie after having been one of only two people in the regular theater when it was shown. It may die a slow death all on its own after its release 9/28/12 . However, with the orchestrated, organized and targeted promotional activity and tools offered to promote it, an observant review seemed to be in order.
Generally panned by professional movie critics without an agenda on its general movie making merits, David Germain, Associated Press, summed up by writing, "Theaters should install glow-in-the-dark versions of those old clunking classroom clocks so viewers can count the minutes ticking by as they watch the movie." (2hours) (San Jose Mercury News, 9/28/12).
The movie itself was produced by Walden Media which also co-produced the "Waiting For Superman" movie, the propaganda film for charter schools. "Won't back Down" continues the agenda associated with same "scripter's"--this time the issue is promoting the idea manifested by the Parent Trigger Law first passed in California and subsequently in some other states. "Waiting For Superman" at least had some real live figures featured in existing entities to resemble a documentary setting.
"Won't Back Down" is FICTION "inspired by real events". Leading characters are portrayed by accomplished actresses, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis in unbelievable portrayals, and badly directed. Gyllenhaal's character is a single mother with a young dyslexic daughter living in a rundown inner city neighborhood with a rundown school, John Adams Elementary. Viola Davis's character is a drained and distressed teacher who has a "slow" son. For purposes of simplification Maggie Gyllenhaal's character will be identified in this review as MG, and Viola Davis's character as VD.
MG is frustrated that her daughter's teacher isn't meeting the needs of her daughter. She can't move her daughter to another classroom or another school. She happens to see through a window of the another classroom what she perceives as a successful teacher with an engaged class. That teacher happens to be a handsome young fellow who happens to be a Teach For America teacher who is leading his students in an exercise of line dancing, and accompanying them with a ukulele. That character provides the obligatory romantic interest as the movie progresses.
Then MG meets VD who is frustrated teacher with the "slow" son who attends the same school, and wants the school to do better by him. MG hears about a means for parents to take over schools by getting parent signatures and teachers on board. Obviously a Parent Trigger action, but not called that in the movie. Misleading technically as well with a tiny mention of a requirement for teachers' participation, which is not to my knowledge a specification for existing Parent Teacher Law. Yet, it made for a more complex story line to flesh out the movie as MG and VD team up to get parent signatures and engage teachers against administrators, union bosses, and the big bad school board.
The hyper character played by MG would qualify for Olympic sprint runner, for throughout the entire move she is portrayed running everywhere she goes, never a normal pace of walking. The two women spend night and day complying with signature gathering, filing requirements, deadlines, and compiling curricula for the school they plan to "take over." Little by little most of the teachers are convinced for "they aren't teaching for the sake of money, but for the children." The handsome young Teach-For- America teacher finally acquiesces to the take over when he overcomes his dedication to the memory of his father figure who was a teacher and union advocate.
Finally, the climax of the drama arrives when a split school board passes the Parent Trigger take over with one cliff hanger vote. By the way, the parent takeover was named, the "Parent Trooper" movement with t-shirts to match in the movie.
Cut to the closing scenes. The first school assembly following the parent takeover of John Adams School, the students are all well-behaved, well-groomed, and smiling while awaiting the speakers to begin. One of the speakers is the dyslectic daughter of MG's character who haltingly READS an announcement of the first "service learning assignment" for the school, a field trip to a local food bank! There is a brief view of the Teach-For-America teacher leading a singing group, performing a rap style vocal and his accompanying with his ukulele.
Everyone lives happily ever after.........curtain closed.
Watching the entire move one could not escape the subtle propaganda messages associated with left leaning community organizing. There exists a well-known practice utilized in movies and television called "Product Placement." This is where producers or marketers of brand name products work with film producers to place their products in the film as props in appropriate background scenes. This is also known as "benefit mix," for their is mutual benefit involved. It is not really subliminal advertising, but visual subjection of the product to viewers without open advertising associated with it.
I have a companion term that seems perfect, "Propaganda Placement." The movie, "Won't Back Down," is a prime example of this term with the contextual references just slipped in for visual or auditory association. Examples are:
1) In opening scenes MG's character wears a T-shirt with a large peace symbol on the front of it. Current generations of parents have no memory of the radical revolutionary 60's when the Peace Symbol was emblematic of the times for the "left."
2) In the inner city John Adams School, one scene has signage with the name of "Rosa Parks" over the three archways. Subtle, and unspoken, it is identifying with the 60's civil rights movement. Parent Trigger laws are being promoted by organizers as a "Civil Rights" movement. Gloria Romero is associated with California's Parent Revolution in Southern California. Earlier this year she spoke at Santa Clara University during School Choice Week, and said, "School Choice needs to be fought as a 'Civil Rights' issue."
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3) The mention of Montgomery, Alabama without context of the movie is another seed planted for thinking in context of the Civil Rights movement.
4) A label on a box of petitions gathered by MG and VD was, "Yes We Can," which we all know as the Obama 2008 campaign slogan.
5) T-shirts worn by parents with lettering "Parent Troopers," is a play on words for Parent Trigger.
6) Gandhi is quoted at an organizing pep rally.
What else but a propaganda vehicle has tool kits to spread the word, support the movie, mobilize and organize your community? They do so by using tools available such as "featurettes," movie trailers, internet links, Face book Group ticket sales, postcards, etc., etc. just as the promoters of this movie have.
Once again, they're selling poison to the dumbed down public.