Wednesday, November 30, 2011

MADE IN DAGENHAM - The Fight For Equal Pay

Cast: Sally Hawkins, Rosamund Pike, Miranda Richardson, Bob Hoskins, Richard Schiff, Geraldine James, Rupert Graves, Robbie Kay, Joseph Mawle and Daniel Mays
Director: Nigel Cole
Screenplay: Billy Ivory
Time: 113 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

Miranda Richardson (centre) flanked by Geraldine James and Sally Hawkins

PREAMBLE: I must confess that I was not very excited about watching this 2010 movie about a bunch of British women staging labour protests in the Sixties. However, when I finally got down to it, Made In Dagenham turns out to be an enjoyable and even entertaining effort. Directed by Nigel Cole, the guy who gave us Calendar Girls in 2003, the movie captures the Sixties mood and ambience rather vividly, and even plays the period's pop songs on the sound track.

Of course, the narrative, based on real-life events about one woman's guts and grit in fighting for equal pay, helps a lot in keeping the audience interested.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Dagenham is a small town in England where the Ford factory employs 187 women 'machinists' and 55,000 men in 1968. The women, who sew car seats together, work in appalling sweatshop conditions, many having to loosen their dresses to counter the summer heat. When the female workers are labelled 'unskilled' and forced to take a pay cut, a union rep (Bob Hoskins) urges them to take their grievances to the top management. (PIC RIGHT: Jaime Winstone as Sandra)
A spunky Rita O’Grady (Sally Hawkins) is picked to be the spokeswoman and her quest for 'a fair shake' and equality (women get 15 per cent less pay than men) leads to protests and strikes. Rita's own family and those of the others are also hurt by the industrial actions but they are determined to win. After a while, Barbara Castle (Miranda Richardson), the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity, sees it fit to intervene in the cause.

HITS & MISSES: Director Cole resists the temptation to go for the melodramatic, opting for the soft and more realistic approach where we see how an ordinary and unassuming Rita and her gang quietly push for their rights. This is a fitting vehicle for Hawkins whose nervousness belies an iron will and determination to 'do the right thing'. It is easy to see how she can win over so many people. Hawkins is supported by a sterling cast including Geraldine James as the wife of a World War II veteran with mental problems; Daniel Mays as Rita's long suffering husband, Eddie; and Rosamund Pike (left) as Lisa, the resentful wife of an executive (played by Rupert Graves) at the plant.

I also like the little details Cole includes to remind us of the Sixties - smoking indoors, the a-go-go parties and the shock in men's faces at the thought of women getting the equal pay as men. Understandably, 'Dagenham' is not going to do as well as Calendar Girls, which is a comedy with controversial delights. Still, for those who appreciate good acting and a bit of nostalgia, this one more than fits the bill.

THE LOWDOWN: An inspiring and uplifting story.


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