Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Movie Review: Made in Dagenham

Made in Dagenham ***
Directed By:
Nigel Cole.
Written By: William Ivory.
Starring: Sally Hawkins (Rita O’Grady), Bob Hoskins (Albert), Miranda Richardson (Barbara Castle), Jaime Winstone (Sandra), Andrea Riseborough (Brenda), Geraldine James (Connie), Daniel Mays (Eddie), Rosamund Pike (Lisa), Kenneth Cranham (Monty), Richard Schiff (Tooley).

It seems like such a simple thing in 2010, but the reality is that in the not too distant past, women were paid less for doing the same job as men. Made in Dagenham is the story of 187 female workers at the Ford plant in England who decided that enough was enough, and did something about it. They went on strike, eventually shutting the entire factory down because the company had no finished seats to install into their cars. They had little support from their union, almost none from their male co-workers, and not all that much in the country at large. Ford said that industry would go bankrupt if they were forced to pay women the same as men. Fairness seemed like an ideal to strive for, but not a reality.

Made in Dagenham is a by the books comedy-drama about these women. Set in 1968, the costume designers and makeup artists obviously had a field day getting the women in the film into period ware. The performances elevate movie beyond its standard issue roots. Sally Hawkins in particular is wonderful as Rita O’Grady, who was the leader of the female workers. Her husband Eddie (Daniel Mays) also works at the plant, and doesn’t particularly like being out of a job – especially when that means that there is no money left to pay the bills. But Rita, and the women, insist on being paid fairly. Hawkins, so good in Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go Lucky a few years ago, brings the same sort of enthusiastic optimism to her role here. It is nearly impossible not to root for her, as she deals with one condescending man after another – her husband, the head of the union, even her son’s teacher who tells her that she doesn’t understand why he has to use corporal punishment – and how could she, because she’s so poor. But she grins and bears it, and pushes forward.

There are other fine performances in the movie as well. Bob Hoskins is the one man sympathetic from the start – the one her encourages her at every step along the way. Miranda Richardson has a blast as the newly appointed Minister of Finance, who deals with sexism from her underlings, even in her position. I also quite loved Rosamund Pike, as a very intelligent women, with a degree from Oxford, who is still treated like an idiot by her husband. The rest of the cast – Andrea Riseborough as the fun loving Brenda, Jaime Winstone as Sandra, who wants to be a model, and Geraldine James, as a woman struggling to take care of her sick husband, are all fine as well.

Made in Dagenham doesn’t break new ground. There is little here that you haven’t really seen before. And yet director Nigel Cole fills the movie with life and energy, and William Ivory’s screenplay is witty and intelligent. Walking into the movie I knew what to expect – and the movie delivers that and nothing more – but it is such a charming movie that I hardly feel the need to complain. And perhaps it is worth a reminder that not that long ago, we still treated women as second class citizens. If people like Rita and her “girls” didn’t stand up and say enough is enough, perhaps we still would be. It’s good for all of us that they did.

No comments:

Post a Comment