Wednesday, 6 October 2010

MADE IN DAGENHAM (2010) - 4 STARS

"1968. It's a Man's World. But not for long...."


If ever I've come across a film about girl power, I can't help but be reminded of the farce that was SPICEWORLD THE MOVIE (1997), but when it comes to one based on a true story involving a power struggle between the two sexes, then you get a great mix of courage, defiance and unity especially if you're a woman. From director Nigel Cole who made CALENDER GIRLS (2003), he has created a much more superior film about women than in his other film. He has also managed to put together a great cast of British actors and actresses, set in a glorious time period and make it charming in one of the feelgood films of the year.


Set in 1968, the film tells the tale of the 187 women that worked at the Ford Motor companies factory in Dagenham who struggled to earn equal rights and pay with the 55,000 male workers at the factory and so decided enough was enough and went on strike. Leading the campaign is shy yet pleasant worker Rita O'Grady (Sally Hawkins) whose outrage about Ford representatives refusing to give the women more credit with their work leads to her rallying the girls to support the bid for equal pay. Amongst those assisting her on the campaign includes male factory boss Albert (Bob Hoskins), best friend Connie (Geraldine James) and sexy duo Brenda (Andrea Riseborough) and Sandra (Jaime Winstone) who show their determination towards getting their voices heard through traveling around the country gaining more support from other female workers. Many laugh at the women's actions until the reality sets in forcing the unions and the management to take production to a halt in a bid to try and stop the women marching on. The trials and tribulations of the women are seen through Rita's determination in the crusade causing harm to her marriage with male factory worker Eddie (Daniel Mays), Connie struggling to cope with her ill husband George (Roger Lloyd-Pack - Trigger of Only Fools and Horses) and the wife of one of the executives of Ford, Lisa (Rosamund Pike) keeping her feelings about the strike to herself. As the situation finally comes to a head with the chief participants (Ford, the Government, the Women, the unions and the men workers) realizing that things have gone too far, but none of them can back down so defense secretary Barbara Castle (Miranda Richardson) steps in to try and even the situation determining whether the women's campaign was successful or not.....


Made in Dagenham is a gem of a film, interesting, entertaining and emotional but excels with the mixture of comedy and drama which is what made Calender Girls a success with audiences. As brought up before, Nigel Cole orchestrated a solid cast mostly female though the men impress too. Sally Hawkins produces a more serious, determined role as Rita compared to her more jolly Golden Globe winning-role as Poppy in HAPPY-GO-LUCKY (2008). Her character is the leader of the struggle who begins to doubt her own single-mindedness and how much it's costing not just her family but the entire town's working community but Hawkins plays it very well and hopefully will get noticed by BAFTA/Oscar this time round. The other actresses do a solid job too with Geraldine James being the backbone of the group but having to go through her suffering with her ill husband, Rosamund Pike oozes of such charm and gorgeousness in her role and Riseborough and Winstone both play their parts well with such sizzling sexiness but great interplay with the other female characters. However it is Miranda Richardson who steals the supporting performances well with her uptight role as Barbara Castle taking her fury of sexism out on her two dumbstruck male civil servants while trying to help the girls with their campaign. On the male side, Bob Hoskins, as the warm and supportive shop steward Albert, is well cast and Daniel Mays does a satisfactory job as Rita's long-suffering husband, with the other male characters presented as selfish, repetitive and of course, sexist.


There is a lot of attention to period detail in the clothing and the music, the clothing especially looks sublime especially in one particular scene involving Sandra posing for the Ford car though also showing her commitment to the strike through lettering on her body. Made in Dagenham could be criticized for some of its historical inaccuracies and for not making more of a political statement though the ending does confirm what some of these women in real life went though. The darkness of the film does sometimes detract it through the relationship struggle between Rita and Eddie which drags on and climaxes predictably. It's also a pity as well that many male viewers will accuse the film of its focus on the portrayal of the women as strong salt-of-the-earth characters, whereas the men have to be seen as caricatures (especially the Ford executives). Some may also suggest this film is a British version of NORMA RAE (1979) but the wittiness of the British aspect makes it a worthwhile film that will be hugely popular with feminists. In a phrase, it's "Girl Power – union style.

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