Posted by: lucylightning | May 27, 2012

New Gyllenhaal Movie a Poor Portrayal of Pittsburgh

by Lucy Leitner

Hollyburgh tries to stand behind everything relating to Pittsburgh’s transformation into Hollywood East. To demonstrate our commitment, we even sat through the final episode of Dancing with the Stars to make sure Hines Ward got his disco ball trophy. But there are certain things of which we just can’t approve. Won’t Back Down, the Pittsburgh filmed and set movie that opens in September, is one of those. The unlikeable Maggie Gyllenhaal is a bartender/single mother/cliché with an illiterate daughter whose cruel teacher locks her in the closet like a fairy tale evil stepmother would. So Gyllenhall leads a revolt to take over the school, thereby inspiring the most aggressive PTA of all time. Viola Davis is also a mother and a teacher who risks her job to join the cause. Holly Hunter is an evil teacher’s union rep, because apparently teachers and unions are evil in this one.

Between the Kelly Clarkson ode to strength and pride in fatness (I’m assuming) used in the trailer and the inspirational title (or Eminem homage, as I incorrectly prefer to see it), this just looks like intolerable feel goodery and ill-conceived vilification. And probably not the best endorsement of Pittsburgh, considering this was based on real events that didn’t occur in our fair city. The actual events, which appear to have been far less heroic and single mother oriented, occurred in California in 2010 when a group of parents took advantage of a new law called the “Parent Trigger Act,” which allows parents to force change when a school is underperforming. The parents could do this at Mount Gleason Middle School in Sunland, CA because of that law, so there probably wouldn’t have been any threats of arrest like the one depicted in the trailer of the film set in Pennsylvania which does not have a parent trigger law. Basically, they dramatized a petition.

Hollyburgh can’t wait for to become a serial TV drama.

So, the film portrays Pittsburgh as a place where evil teachers lock children in closets like they’re Matildaor something. And, more offensively, it pits Maggie Gyllenhaal as the hero while Pittsburgh is Miss Trunchbull.

What ‘Won’t Back Down’ director Daniel Barnz thinks of Pittsburgh

Hollyburgh does not approve of this for a litany of reasons because we would be more inclined to root for anything short of being annexed by Philadelphia over a Gyllenhaal. Apparently she still came to Pittsburgh like she was stalking the Batman franchise that blew her up before filming here. She should probably get the hint. Hollyburgh refused to see The Help, so we know nothing of Viola Davis other than that she was apparently named after the only stringed instrument that makes the cello look cool. But the film does have Ving Rhames, so we will root for him to continue taking the name Irving out of cello territory.

Hollyburgh isn’t really into anything that involves single mothers. Well, except for Dexter, but that show that featured a Pittsburgh native in the role that they showrunners had the good sense to kill four seasons in because we are more inclined to root for serial murderers.

Unless a Derek Zoolander center is involved, we don’t really care for kids who can’t read. We don’t remember Titans any more than we remember the Alamo or Isaly’s chipped ham. Hollyburgh loves movies about school…when Sam Kinison is one of the teachers or when time travel is the only way to pass history class.

If the film featured Gyllenhaal’s and Davis’s characters meeting in a Chocoholics Anonymous meeting, this movie would officially have everything that Hollyburgh hates most.


  1. I am reserving judgement until I see the movie. I grew up in Penn Hills and what I see in the trailer reminds me of what I went through with quite a few of my teachers in elementary, middle AND high school. Not all of the teachers, but too many of them. Ridicule and embarrassment was a daily experience for me in the 80s. I hear that Penn Hills has gotten worse since. No wonder they are failing. (BTW, I ended up going back to college 6 years after high school, and discovered I am smart. I earned a MA with 3.98 gpa WHILE working full time and being a mother of 2 young children.)

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