Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Movie Review: Pride

Directed by: Matthew Warchus.
Written by: Stephen Beresford.
Starring: Ben Schnetzer (Mark), George MacKay (Joe), Andrew Scott (Gethin), Joseph Gilgun (Mike), Faye Marsay (Steph), Dominic West (Jonathan), Paddy Considine (Dai), Imelda Staunton (Hefina), Bill Nighy (Cliff), Monica Dolan (Marion), Freddie Fox (Jeff),  Chris Overton (Reggie), Joshua Hill (Ray), Menna Trussler (Gwen), Jessica Gunning (Sian), Rhodri Meilir (Martin), Lisa Palfrey (Maureen), Liz White (Margaret), Nia Gwynne (Gail), Mary-Anne Dymond (Rowena), Sophie Evans (Debbie), Dyfan Dwyfor (Lee), Jack Baggs (Gary), Johnny Gibbon (Johnny), Kyle Rees (Carl), Bryan Parry (Kevin), Joseph Wilkins (Jason), Laura Matthews (Tina).

There have been many British films like Pride before – and likely there will be many more like it in the future. At their peak popularity, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, some of these films – like The Full Monty and Billy Elliot – became surprising box office hits, and awards players. The Brits do this type of inspirational film better than Americans do – I think in part because the Brits aren’t quite as insistent at keeping everything as inspiring, and sentimental, as Hollywood seems to be. There is always a degree of sadness to the proceedings, and they tap into something real beneath the comedy and artifice of the surface. Pride, which is about the unlikely alliance between striking coal miners in Wales, and the Lesbian and Gay community in London, hits all the notes you expect a movie like this to hit. It doesn’t do anything particularly original – and is basically a very safe, very conservative movie that aims to be an inspirational crowd pleaser – and that’s just about what it does.

The movie opens, focusing on Mark (Ben Schetzer), a young gay, Irishman living in London who on the day of the 1984 Gay Pride Parade is hit with an idea – that the Coal Miners, currently on strike to protest Margaret Thatcher’s cuts, and the gay and lesbian community actually have a lot in common. In fact, since the strike starter, the lives of the gay community has gotten easier – and Mark thinks this is because the police don’t have time to harass them anymore because they spend all their time harassing the miners. So he decides to start a group – Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) – and although most of the gay community don’t want to join his movement – he does attract a small, but loyal group, willing to collect money on the street for the miners. But then, Mark cannot find a mining group willing to take their money – they do not want the support of gays and lesbians. Finally, through a miscommunication, they do find a small group in Wales willing to take their money. And this starts an unlikely alliance and friendship between the two groups.
From this brief description, you can probably tell where Pride is going to go – and you would almost certainly be right. While the leaders of the Miners – Dal (Paddy Considine), Hefina (Imelda Staunton) and Cliff (Bill Nighy) welcome the gays, and their money, many of the others are more hesitant. This is 1984 after all – where homophobia was even more out in the open and acceptable than it is now, 30 years later. Many of the miners don’t want the support of these “perverts” and “fags”.  But then – as movies have taught us over and over again – all that needs to happen is that the two groups get to know each other, then they start seeing beyond their own prejudices and biases.
Pride works as inspirational comedy, with some more serious elements thrown in. Yes, the film is derivative of a film like The Full Monty – which also used economic hardship as a backdrop for a group of “manly men” doing something they wouldn’t normally do (in that case strip), and Billy Elliot, which used the same miner’s strike as background for one boys growing love of dance – and all the sexual taunts he got as a result. There is nothing new or challenging about Pride. It is precisely the movie it wants to be – for better or for worse. The film works, but I couldn’t help but be somewhat disappointed that the film didn’t try to do something different or more daring.

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