Maggie Gyllenhaal’s new movie, Won’t Back Down, opened on Friday to mostly negative reviews. The anti-union, pro-charter attack film is receiving a myriad of backlash, protest, and harsh criticism from the America Federation of Teachers, but it boasts at least one liberal advocate: Maggie Gyllenhaal herself.
The central issue of the film, the apparent corruption of the American public education system, is a hot-button topic and difficult to talk about without ruffling many feathers, and the film’s seemingly anti-union message has turned what might have been a thoughtful discussion about the progress of American education into a target for education and labor advocates country-wide. Traditionally characterized as a largely liberal group, one left-leaning voice is conspicuously absent from the deluge of criticism: Actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, who stars as a struggling single mother in Won’t Back Down.
“Clearly — and I don’t know anyone who’d disagree — there are huge problems with the teachers union,” she said during a promotional interview on Friday. “So you can be in support of a teachers union and unions in general, but if you don’t take the time to look at things that are broken … then it will fall apart completely.”
Though Maggie was quick to cite her proud leftist upbringing and general support of unions, she asked, “Can we not even take a look at ways that the teachers union isn’t functioning without being called anti-union?”
Not in the opinion of critics, apparently. Elena Sheppard of PolicyMic says that “the film’s politics would be a non-issue if the story held up, offered something new, or even presented the information in a non-pedantic manner. Instead, the film often feels like a thinly veiled lecture with a few loose characters mixed in.” Another review said that Won’t Back Down is “an absolute fabricated work of fiction, hiding behind the label ‘Inspired by True Events.’ ” Lastly, one reviewer damned the film as a “marriage made in hell between bad politics and bad art.”
What do you think? Did you see Won’t Back Down? Are you a teacher? Do you think that teacher unions need reform? Sound off!