Won't Back Down (film)

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Won't Back Down
Wont Back Down Poster.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed by Daniel Barnz
Produced by Mark Johnson
Written by
  • Brin Hill
  • Daniel Barnz
Music by Marcelo Zarvos
Cinematography Roman Osin
Edited by Kristina Boden
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date
  • September 28, 2012 (2012-09-28)
Running time
121 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $19 million[2]
Box office $5.8 million[3]

Won't Back Down (previously titled Still I Rise, Learning To Fly and Steel Town) is a drama film directed by Daniel Barnz and starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis and Holly Hunter. It was released on September 28, 2012.[4]


Two determined mothers, a car dealer/bartender (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and a teacher (Viola Davis), look to transform their children's failing inner city school in Pittsburgh. Facing a powerful and entrenched bureaucracy and corruption from the teachers' union president (Holly Hunter) and the school's principal (Bill Nunn), they risk everything to make a difference in the education and future of their children.[5]




The cast of the movie premiere in New York.

The film is loosely based on the events surrounding the use of the parent trigger law in Sunland-Tujunga, Los Angeles, California in 2010, where several groups of parents attempted to take over several failing public schools. The Parent Trigger law, which was passed in California and other states in 2010, allowed parents to enforce administrative overhaul and overrule administrators in under-performing public schools if petitioned. If successful, petitions allow parents to direct changes such as dismissal of staff and potential conversion of a school to a charter school.[6][7]


Walden Media, a film studio which released a 2010 documentary film Waiting for "Superman" with Paramount Pictures and Participant Media about the American educational system,[8] produced the film, with 20th Century Fox releasing it on September 28, 2012.[9] American actresses Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis were among the first to be cast,[10] with Academy award-winning actress Holly Hunter being cast later on.[7] The film marked Hunter's first film appearance in seven years since The Incredibles and The Big White. The film's trailer was released on May 17, 2012.[11] The film's budget was $25 million, not counting the undisclosed amount for marketing the film.[citation needed]

Promotional campaign

Private foundations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce contributed more than $2 million for a publicity campaign for the film. Television ads, bookmarks, websites and private screenings a six-month cross-country tour promoted the film. Promoters scheduled private screenings in states from New York to Georgia and Utah, to promote the movie and its parent trigger message.[12]


Box office

The film grossed just $5.3 million at the box office domestically, and, according to Box Office Mojo, had the worst opening-weekend performance of any film to open in more than 2,500 theatres - collecting just $1,035 per screen, until the record was broken by Victor Frankenstein in 2015.[13]

Critical response

The film received mixed to negative reviews from critics, as Won't Back Down currently holds a 33% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 100 reviews. The critical consensus reads: "despite the best efforts of its talented leads, Won't Back Down fails to lend sufficient dramatic heft or sophistication to the hot-button issue of education reform."[14] Variety called the film a "heavy-handed inspirational drama" that "grossly oversimplifies the issue at hand." The site continued, "Barnz's disingenuous pot-stirrer plays to audiences' emotions rather than their intelligence, offering meaty roles for Maggie Gyllenhaal as a determined single mom, and Viola Davis as the good egg among a rotten batch of teachers, while reducing everyone else to cardboard characterizations. Absent high-profile champions, femme-centric pic could suffer from low attendance."[15] Michael Medved liked the film, giving it three and a half stars (out of four) and calling it "..one of the better films of 2012."[16]

Michelle Rhee presented the film at separate events near both the Republican and Democratic Party 2012 national conventions several weeks before its theatrical release.[17]


Some critics have contended that the film is an ideological vehicle of conservative activist Philip Anschutz and that the film is slanted to promote the parent trigger movement.[18][19]

On the other hand, some critics have contended that the movie shows a watered-down version of what parents are really up against when trying to implement the Parent Trigger law.[20][21]


Viola Davis won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture for her role as Nona Alberts; and she was nominated for a Black Reel Award for Best Actress for her role.

See also

Home media

Won't Back Down was released on DVD and Blu-ray on January 15, 2013.


  1. ^ Kenneth Turan (September 27, 2012). "Movie review: 'Won't Back Down' doesn't let up on unions". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 2, 2012.
  2. ^ Kaufman, Amy (September 27, 2012). "Animated 'Hotel Transylvania' to scare off 'Looper'". Los Angeles Times.
  3. ^ "Won't Back Down (2012) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  4. ^ "Won't Back Down (2012) - Film details". ComingSoon.net. CraveOnline. Retrieved 2012-05-21.
  5. ^ "Won't Back Down (2012) - Production Details". Yahoo! Movies. Yahoo! Inc. 17 May 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-21.
  6. ^ "Desert Trails Elementary Parents Seek Control Of Failing Adelanto, California School In High-Stakes U.S. Education Reform". Reuters. The Huffington Post. 19 March 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-21.
  7. ^ a b Rotherham, Andrew (8 March 2012). "Can Parents Take Over Schools?". TIME. Time Inc. Retrieved 2012-05-21.
  8. ^ Tourtellotte, Bob (23 Jan 2010). "Bill Gates goes to Sundance, offers an education". Reuters. Park City, Utah: Thomson Reuters. Retrieved 2012-05-21.
  9. ^ Cieply, Michael (20 February 2012). "In Reality and Film, a Battle for Schools". The New York Times. New York: The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2012-05-21.
  10. ^ Fleming, Mike (10 May 2011). "Maggie Gyllenhaal And Viola Davis Lead Walden's 'Still I Rise'". Deadline Hollywood. PMC. Retrieved 2012-05-21.
  11. ^ Hughes, Sarah Anne (17 May 2012). "Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal team up in 'Won't Back Down' trailer". The Washington Post. Washington D.C.: The Washington Post Company. Retrieved 2012-05-21.
  12. ^ Stephanie Simon (September 28, 2012). "'Parent power' film stirs hopes of education reform activists". Chicago Tribune.
  13. ^ WORST WIDE OPENINGS - Saturated 2,500+ theatres, Box Office Mojo
  14. ^ "Won't Back Down (2012)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
  15. ^ Debruge, Peter (September 26, 2012). "Won't Back Down". Variety. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
  16. ^ [1]
  17. ^ Jon Ward, Democratic Split Over Education Reform Tested By Hollywood Movie," "Huffington Post," September 2, 2012 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/02/dnc-education-reform_n_1850089.html
  18. ^ "What Parents Need to Know: FAQ "Won't Back Down" and Parent Trigger" Parents Across America, August 13, 2012
  19. ^ Michele Molnar, "'Parent Trigger' Gets Hollywood Treatment" Education Week, July 26, 2012 http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/parentsandthepublic/2012/07/hollywoo.html
  20. ^ Glenn Garvin, "The truth about the movie ‘Won’t Back Down’" Miami Herald, Oct. 8, 2012 http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/10/08/3040818/the-truth-about-the-movie-wont.html
  21. ^ Andrew J. Rotherham, "‘Won’t Back Down’: Why This Education Movie Matters" Time, Sept. 28, 2012 http://ideas.time.com/2012/09/28/wont-back-down-the-education-movie-that-matters/

External links

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