Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The advantages of being organized

A dual blast of conscience -- feminism and unionism -- in a feel-good movie from Britain.
Made in Dagenham is an easy movie to knock. Predictably designed to create feel-good vibes in its intended audience, the movie stands as a prime example of the kind of British cinema that wears its social conscience on its sleeve. * I hadn't thought of myself as belonging to the group that cherishes such movies, but I must admit that Made in Dagenham's pro-labor stance gave me a lift in these days of high unemployment and rampant corporate profit. * Director Nigel Cole (Calendar Girls) may not be the most nuanced of filmmakers, but he employs a strong cast and benefits from the easy union of dual causes: unionism and feminism. * Focusing on a 1966 strike at a Ford plant in Dagenham, England, the movie tells the story of women who demanded the same pay scale as the plant's male work force. * Sally Hawkins, familiar from Mike Leigh's Happy Go Lucky, plays Rita O'Grady, the leader of the strike who must battle the male hierarchy of her union, as well as a recalcitrant Ford management.* Bob Hoskins portrays a union official who encourages the women, and Daniel Mays appears as Rita's mostly supportive husband. * Perhaps to show that feminist causes cross class lines, the script introduces us to Lisa (Rosamund Pike), the wife of a plant manager who sides with the workers. * Hawkins ably holds the movie together. Look, too, for a nice turn from Miranda Richardson as Barbara Castle, a government official who meets her match in Rita. * Yes, Rita has the entirely expected assortment of colorful co-workers, and, yes, the story isn't exactly loaded with surprises, but Made in Dagenham harkens back to a moment when we could derive good feelings from expressions of solidarity, as opposed to overwrought individual triumphs.

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