Tuesday, August 2, 2011

There's always someone: Made in Dagenham

One of the reasons I like watching historical dramas, pretty much of any type, is because there's always someone who did something relatively small that changed the world in a big way.  Sometimes it comes at great personal cost (assassination is the highest price to prove what you're doing probably changed the world) or sometimes it's just to make your own life a little easier, but it changes the lives of others as well.   When those dramas fill a gap in my own knowledge, particular a gap I wasn't aware was there in the first place, I find the need to tell the world about them.

Made in Dagenham was a movie I originally got from Netflix only because I adore Sally B. Hawkins from Happy-Go-Lucky (which is a whole other story, but I highly recommend it, particularly when she learns to tango).  When I saw that it was a little bit like Norma Rae, I knew I had to see it.  And, as is usually the case with well made historical dramas, this one tells a story that brings the main characters to life without making you feel like you're missing many parts of the story because it doesn't feel like real life or characters that are larger than life.

Sally B. Hawkins plays Rita O'Grady, a wife and mother of two in 1968 who also works at the Ford Motor Plant that sews together the seats for the cars.  She's asked to lead the group when they make demands to be reclassified as semi-skilled labor rather than unskilled, and the pay that goes with it which leads to a strike and the demand for equal pay with the men at the same plant.  We see the suffering they have to go through trying to get the rest of the unions to support them and the work stoppage.  Ultimately they meet with the Secretary of State Barbara Castle (Miranda Richardson) who speaks the same language as the men - "Go back to work and someday it'll get better".  The best they're able to negotiate to go back to work is 92% of what men make, with the hope that Equal pay becomes law in the future (it did in 1970 in England).  The men at Ford (represented by Richard Schiff) complain the same old whine "the economy will collapse if we pay women the same", but luckily Mrs. Castle stands up for the women both in the press and for the government.

It's a really great movie with some 60's music as the soundtrack, and terrific actresses filling out the supporting cast besides Richardson, Rosamund Pike has some terrific scenes as a fellow mother with a son in the same class as Hawkins.  Pike talks about how she used to love to read history because she saw people changing the world, and it motivates Hawkins onto the last step of her fight.   Many people talk about who would play them in the movie of their life - well if I were a British brunette, I would seriously want Sally B. Hawkins to play me.  She speaks with the same tremble in her voice I know I would have trying to argue for what I believe to be a right that I'm being denied, but with a forcefulness that you must take her seriously as a person, and not dwell on the fact that she's a woman.  I highly recommend this movie.  4.5 of 5 stars/lambs

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