Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,
The first movie I present for your consideration is called Won't Back Down (2012, Rated PG, Available On DVD).
Jamie Fitzpatrick (Maggie Gyllenhaal) has a young daughter who has recently had to start attending a different elementary school. Malia (Emily Alyn Lynd) has learning disabilities and isn't receiving the help she needs at school. Her teacher seems indifferent and even cruel. Jamie learns about charter schools and convinces teacher Nona Alberts (Viola Davis) to join her in fighting the school board, the teachers' union, and some of the other teachers to transform this failing school into a charter school, where parents and teachers will be in charge of the way the children are educated.
This movie is not brilliant, but I like it. Viola Davis's quiet intensity further convinces me of her acting abilities. I first saw her in The Help. Won't Back Down isn't a great vehicle for Maggie Gyllenhall -- I like her more in quirky, indie movies -- but actors need to earn money, too. Although this movie is inspiring, it's anti-teachers' union. A number of the teachers, and the union that represents them, are presented in a bad light. I don't know how I feel about that. I think unions are important, although the teachers' union did nothing to help me when I was fired.
I'm also a bit bothered by the way Jamie cares for Emily. Jamie jumps out of bed at the last second to drag Emily off to school with Emily trying to choke down some breakfast on the way. Yes, Jamie works hard to fight for her daughter to have a better education, but I don't see her giving Emily the personal attention a child needs. Emily always looks forlorn and in need of a bath and hair brushing.
If one sees this movie as being in favor of children and their education, then it's good. I'm not sure if charter schools are all that great. They don't seem to do much better than regular schools. However, I don't think it's that difficult to overlook Won't Back Down's faults and enjoy Jamie and Nona fighting for the good of children. This movie should be a good one to watch with your children, maybe 8 - 10 years or older.
Won't Back Down earns The Janie Junebug Seal of Approval.
Our second movie possibility today is a British film that's so funny: Nativity! (2009, Rated PG, Available On DVD).
I don't care that it's not the Christmas season. I would watch this movie any time of year.
Primary school teacher Paul Maddens (Martin Freeman) is given the task of putting on the school's annual Christmas play. Mr. Maddens is appalled. He was put in charge of the play once before, and it was a disaster. He majored in theater, or participated in a drama society at university (I'm not sure which), and his arch rival from those days teaches at a better school, which always receives the best review of a Nativity play by the local newspaper. But Mr. Maddens is stuck with this job, and he sets about it as angrily and grudgingly as he teaches the children in his class.
Then Mr. Poppy (Marc Wootton) becomes Mr. Maddens' assistant teacher. Wonderfully eccentric and childish, Mr. Poppy relates to the children perfectly and transforms Mr. Maddens, the play, and the class.
Nativity! is another feel good movie, and one about which I don't have any serious reservations, except it has more profanity than I would expect in a PG movie, but maybe I remember it incorrectly.
Nativity! is adorable and funny, and it even has a magical feeling at the end.
Nativity! earns The Janie Junebug Highest Seal of Approval.
Infinities of love,
I remember really wanting to see the first movie when it came out but I never had the chance. I believe it was based off of a true story?ReplyDelete
While I know and believe most teachers are good people who do the best they can for their students, I also know that some are...quite horrible. I was in a bad school with both. The good teachers had their hands tied in everything. The bad teachers didn't care and could be rather heartless. With movies like that, I feel like the directors should show those who actually care as well, so not to say everyone is the same, while still pointing out some people are just jerks.
Yes, at the beginning of Won't Back Down it says it's based on a true story, but I don't know anything more about it except it's in Pittsburgh. Caring teachers definitely play a strong part in this movie. Viola Davis is a teacher who is in sharp contrast with the poor teachers. Other good teachers are portrayed as well.Delete
Your movie reviews earn the Shady Del Knight Zeal of Approval, Janie Junebug! Ever since Blackboard Jungle I have been interested in movies about school. I agree with you that Maggie G's talents are best applied to quirky, indie movies like Secretary. The name Emily Alyn Lind jumped out at me because I recognized the name as belonging to the daughter of one of my favorite actresses Barbara Alyn Woods. "Alyn" is a family name derived from Barbara's father, Allen. All three of Barbara's daughters have "Alyn" as their middle name. The second film would also interest me. Mrs. Shady and I love British movies and television shows and I enjoy school-based stories about transformation and triumph such as To Sir With Love, Mr. Holland's Opus and Jack Black's School of Rock.ReplyDelete
Have a great weekend, JJ!
Nativity! is a School of Rock-type movie with younger children. I'll have to look up Barbara. I don't recognize the name, but I might know here when I see her. I think Secretary is hilarious.Delete
I like Maggie. Goofy I like. I may check this out.ReplyDelete
I like Maggie, too, but she's not that great in this movie. Viola Davis is the glue.Delete
Nativity sounds great! I heard mixed reviews on the other one, but I think we'll probably see it, too.ReplyDelete
I think Nativity is darling. I'm not surprised that Won't Back Down has mixed reviews.Delete
You're right -- Nativity! is great any time of year. My Brit sister introduced my family to it two Christmases ago and broke us out of our rut of not being able to find a movie that all four of us could equally enjoy. Have you seen Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger with David Tennant? I haven't yet, but one of these days I'll give it a go.ReplyDelete
I didn't know about the second movie. I'll try to remember to look for it.Delete
Won't Back Down was pretty good. I saw it when it came of one of the movie channels. I have not heard of the other but I love Martin Freeman.ReplyDelete
Freeman is very funny, but the guy who plays Mr. Poppy is a riot.Delete
I loved Viola in the Help. I like Maggie, too. I saw Sherrybaby, but I don't remember a thing about it, except that she was blonde and hot (for Maggie.)ReplyDelete
Around here, kids with any kind of special needs go to the public school.
I don't think I would see a Christmas flick now. I'm sorry this comment sounds so lame, I was dealing with a leak in the house last night, and didn't get a lot of sleep.
Well, there ya go.
It's not a lame comment. I'm amazed that you're reading blogs at all. I read your post. I hope the problem is fixed. In the movie kids with special needs go to a regular public school, but at this particular school, they aren't getting the extra help they need. My understanding of charter schools is that the parents and teachers take charge and run it as they see fit. Sherry Baby is pretty sad. Maggie is very good in it. She gets out of prison and goes to see her little girl, who now lives with her brother and his wife. Sherry feels left out of the daughter's life; it's difficult for her to stay off drugs; it's difficult to get a job and she goes to extreme lengths to do so; and she has a very weird relationship with her father. The scenes with her father are brief, but they made me think, This is one of the reasons she's messed up. I love Maggie in Secretary, which is actually a comedy about S&M. I know: Who'da thunk it? But it's funny.Delete
Thanks for these reviews. I like Viola Davies a lot, I first saw her as a heroin addict and mother of the main character, of course I don't remember the name of the film, a true story, I think it was. She is one of our really good actors.ReplyDelete
I didn't notice Viola Davis or Octavia Spencer until I saw The Help, and now every time I see them I realize how great they are.Delete
The title, Won't Back Down, sounds like it should be a Steven Seagal movie from the late 90's. After watching Waiting for Superman, I've had my fill of anxiety-riddled school drama. I don't even have a kid and I'm worried about how to put my imaginary child through school. Martin Freeman, Martin Freeman, Martin Freeman, Martin Freeman. Sorry, that's my meditation chant to calm me down.ReplyDelete
You're right: That sounds like a Seagal movie. Getting my kids through public school was pretty much a nightmare. When the younger one went to a ritzy prep school, it was better, but it still sucked.Delete
These are both new to me. I don't watch many of the more kids-type movies, but these sound okay. ;)ReplyDelete
The adults are more important characters than the kids.Delete
I can watch Christmas movies all year round as well. Especially the good ones. ;)ReplyDelete