Movie Review: Made in Dagenham

Here, Sally Hawkins was matter-of-fact plunky without sinking to cliche. Indeed, once knows the basic outline, it is difficult to avoid a bit of predictability. Fortunately, the story, and performances were strong enough.

Late last year, my wife and I saw the trailer for the movie Made in Dagenham, and liked it well enough that we decided to go see the film itself. But for whatever reason, we didn’t make it.

Then we noticed that it was playing for three days at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady last week. So I took off early from work, went home, and we dropped off the daughter at the home of a teenaged daughter of a church member. We were running late for the 5:15 p.m. showing because of rush hour traffic, so Carol parked the car while I bought the tickets and popcorn. Walking from the ticket counter to the entrance, the door closed, and it was LOCKED!

So I walked back to the counter to comment on this. At that very moment, my wife showed up AND someone opened the door, we ran in and got led into the darkest theater I’ve ever gone into. Thank goodness for the guide’s flashlight.

We walked in during the opening credits, and I don’t know if there was anything before that; evidently, there were few or no coming attractions.

From the IMDB: In 1968, the Ford auto factory in Dagenham was one of the largest single private employers in the United Kingdom. In addition to the thousands of male employees, there were also 187 underpaid women machinists who primarily assemble the car seat upholstery in poor working conditions. Dissatisfied, the women, represented by the shop steward and Rita O’Grady, work with union rep Albert Passingham for a better deal. However, Rita learns that there is a larger issue in this dispute considering that women are paid an appalling fraction of the men’s wages for the same work across the board on the sole basis of their sex. Refusing to tolerate this inequality any longer, O’Grady leads a strike by her fellow machinists for equal pay for equal work. What follows would test the patience of all involved in a grinding labour and political struggle…

Sally Hawkins, who played Rita, was someone I wanted to see in the well-regarded Happy-Go-Lucky (2008), but didn’t. Here, she was matter-of-fact plucky without sinking to cliche. Indeed, once one knows the basic outline, it is difficult to avoid a bit of predictability. Fortunately, the story, and performances by Hawkins, Geraldine James as Rita’s friend Connie (who had a more interesting story arc), Bob Hoskins as her ally Albert (whose character has his own motivation), Daniel Mays as Rita’s trying-to-be supportive husband Eddie, and in particular the amazing Miranda Richardson as Cabinet member Barbara Castle, a glass ceiling breaker in her own right, were compelling enough. Another strong performance was by Rosamund Pike, who, like Hawkins, had a smallish role in the movie An Education (2009), which we did see.

The one complaint is that especially early on, we both had real difficulty discerning what was being said because of their accents. At least one reviewer had the same issue. I don’t know if my ear acclimated or the dialogue became easier to understand, but it did get better.

The movie had period music as its soundtrack, most of which I recognized, and it neither enhanced nor detracted from the movie for me.

Definitely inspiring without being mawkish, and worth the trip.

The UK trailer, I believe.


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