Having tackled racism in Civil Rights-era Mississippi with the help of Emma Stone in last summer’s The Help, Viola Davis is now taking on the modern public education crisis with the aid of Maggie Gyllenhaal in Won’t Back Down.

Directed by Daniel Barnz (Beastly) from a script he co-wrote with Brin Hill, the apparently fact-based drama stars Gyllenhaal and Davis as a pair of determined mothers who team up to establish a charter school for struggling children in their Pittsburgh neighborhood. Oscar Isaac co-stars as a ukelele-strumming teacher who takes a romantic interest in Gyllenhaal, because he’s in everything these days. Watch the first trailer after the jump.

[via Yahoo Movies]

Based on the trailer, it seems that Barnz has managed the trick of making this story look uplifting without veering too far into sentimentality. It looks like he’s aided by grounded performances from Gyllenhaal and Davis. No surprise there. Davis in particular has a knack for spinning gold out of even the smallest, most thankless roles, let alone parts this meaty.

However, if I have one complaint, it’s that Davis’ character seems to get pushed off to the side a bit in favor of Gyllenhaal’s — to the extent that we never get a clear sense of Davis’ motivations, but we do get multiple scenes of Isaac being cute toward Gyllenhaal. Much as I like the latter two actors, who the hell cares about their budding flirtation when the women have much larger problems to deal with already? Here’s hoping this is just a case of a clumsily cut trailer, rather than an indication of a significant flaw in the movie.

Won’t Back Down opens September 28, just in time to help emphasize public education as a heated topic in the U.S. presidential race. Holly Hunter, Ving Rhames, Lance Reddick, and Rosie Perez also star.

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