‘Won’t Back Down’: Viola Davis Sizzles in New Film

'Won't Back Down': Viola Davis Sizzles in New Film

Stars: Viola Davis, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ving Rhames, Bill Nunn, Rosie Perez, Marianne Jean-Baptist

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Academy Award nominee Viola Davis (Best Actress, The Help) just might get an opportunity to nab another nomination, with her new film, Won’t Back Down, already garnering Oscar buzz.

Davis plays Nona Roberts, a teacher and parent whose child is struggling academically. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Jamie Patrick, a parent whose child is also struggling academically at Roberts’ school. Davis and Patrick try — and fail, to get their children enrolled in a better school, which prompts Patrick to suggest that the two of them start their own school.

This kind of film, which is based on actual events, has been done by Hollywood many times, with mixed results. But those films did not have the force of nature that is Viola Davis. Gyllenhaal is good, but Davis’ intensity has the heat of a blowtorch as it leaps off the screen and makes you sit bolt upright in your seat. Also good in a small part is Marianne Jean-Baptist as a world-weary bureaucrat. Ving Rhames (mercifully) has a cameo as the principal of the good school, while Bill Nunn plays the unprincipled principal of the bad school. But this is the ladies’ show, from start to finish. –p.d. lee

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