Thursday, October 17, 2019

MOVIE REVIEWS: WON’T BACK DOWN

September 28, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Won’t Back Down is sort of a Norma Rae in reverse. This time, it’s the union — a teachers’ union in Pittsburgh — that’s the villain, and your judgment of the film may very well be colored by the way you regard the performance of unions in general and teachers’ unions in particular. Even if you’re a film critic. The film’s reviews seem to reflect the hyperpartisanship that currently divides the country — although nearly all of them are negative (which may merely reflect the politics of most critics). To A.O. Scott of the New York Times, the plot betrays “a political agenda in overdrive. … a mighty cataract of speechifying and breathless plot turns.” Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times writes that the movie depicts unions as “the most pernicious of all the obstacles to healthy schools” — a notion, he says, that “makes perfect sense to companies that believe in unionless, private charter schools that increase profits by paying teachers whatever they can get away with.” (The film was produced by Walden Media, owned by conservative billionaire Philip Anschutz, a major backer of charter schools.) On the other hand, Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel concludes that the movie’s “big moments work, the big scenes pay off and the big emotions are earned in this plucky movie about a couple of people realizing that they can make a difference.” And Kyle Smith of the New York Post, who can usually be counted on to support a film with a conservative bent, takes issue with those who contend that the film makes little effort to present the views of the teachers’ unions about the ills of American education. He notes, however, that The Silence of the Lambs “made little effort to be fair to serial killers, nor did Independence Day lay out the point of view of the aliens. But I’m being unfair. Serial killers and alien armies, unlike teachers’ unions, don’t destroy the dreams of millions of poor black kids.” Still, the movie has received positive reviews from only 18 percent of the major critics and 33 percent of all critics whose reviews have been posted on the Rotten Tomatoes website — and even the latter figure may be inflated. One liberal website has pointed out that at least one enthusiastic review was written by Matthew David, a staffer with the conservative StudentsFirst organization, who did not identify his affiliation, and that other staffers with the organization also wrote reviews (although they did identify themselves as members of the organization).