Made In Dagenham (2010)

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

         

Starring:  Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins, Miranda Richardson, Geraldine James, Rosamund Pike, Andrea Riseborough, Jaime Winstone, Daniel Mays, Richard Schiff, John Sessions, Rupert Graves, Kenneth Cranham, Matt King, Roger Lloyd-Pack, Richard Bailey, Danny Huston.
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Director:  Nigel Cole
Rating:  R
Running Time:  113 Mins.
Release Date:  November 19, 2010
Home Video Date:  March 29, 2011
Box Office: $1.1 Million
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Audley Films, BBC Films, BMS Finance, HanWay Films, Lipsync Productions, Number 9 Films, UK Film Council, and Sony Pictures Classics.

Written by:  William Ivory.

“Credence? I will give credence to their cause!” - Barbara Castle (Miranda Richardson) 

With the arrival of “Made In Dagenham” in the fall of 2010, it was hard to believe that the story of how 187 British female sewing machinists systematically forced the advent of the Equal Pay Act of 1970 had not already been told.  Although a little bit of research will show that great liberties were taken with the cinematic telling of the actual story, “Made In Dagenham” is nonetheless a tender dramatic comedy with an inspirational heft that is easy to rally behind.

When the Ford Motor Company declassified its female machinists to a status akin to that of unskilled laborers, the women spoke up.  With the insistence of union organizer Albert (Bob Hoskins), the machinists agreed initially to a one day walk out.  However, when they return and revisit their deplorable working conditions and less than equal classified status, the anger and resentment is fueled.  Albert pushes the women to fight even further and champions their cause and mild-mannered and affable Rita O’Grady (Sally Hawkins) emerges as the de facto leader of the machinists.  When Ford executives balk at the move, the machinists walk out becomes a full-blown strike and their demands soon become international news as Ford scrambles to react to their sudden PR problem.  Hawkins, who was terrific in 2009′s “Happy-Go-Lucky”, is wonderful as Rita, a woman who finds the courage and power in her own voice and inspires those of her fellow workers.

Hawkins leads a strong ensemble featuring older British actresses (Geraldine James, Miranda Richardson) and newer rising stars (an excellent Rosamund Pike, Andrea Riseborough). The screenplay by William Ivory achieves much of its goal in attempting to make each woman distinctive and unique from the others.  At times, a couple of melodramatic subplots distract and get int he way of the overriding importance of the strike and subsequent enacting of the law.  And since a lot of the details in “Made In Dagenham” do seem to beg for a fact-checker, the film could have withstood a little trimming and tightening up to help retain its unyielding charm and dignity.

Director Nigel Cole (Calendar Girls) exhibits a nice sense of control in managing his ensemble and Ivory does extract some truth here.  At times, Cole and Ivory have spiked in real news footage of the strikers to place the story in a proper perspective.  While certain important thematic details are fictionalized (Rita O’Grady is not real but rather an amalgam of several different women, the strike consisted of workers from two plants and not merely from Dagenham), the movie feels nonetheless honest and the acting is largely first-rate.

Should I See It?

YES 

This is a charming and insightful film with great performances and something to inspire the activist in all of us.

Sally Hawkins is great again, Rosamund Pike is the breakout among the supporting cast and Miranda Richardson as Barbara Castle, the Secretary of State under Prime Minister Howard Wilson, has some great moments late in the film.

If you are a supporters of the Equal Pay movement.

NO  

If you know the real story, some of this may rub you the wrong way and leave you wondering why the filmmakers could not just tell something more accurate to what really lead to the Equal Pay Act being implemented.

Subplots involving supporting characters may distract from the film’s message too much.

I mean I guess if you don’t believe in equal pay for equal work, but then I must ask…are you serious about that?