MADE IN DAGENHAM
By Gary Murray
Starring Alice Hawkins, Bob Hopkins, Andrea Riseborough, Rosemund Pike and Miranda Richardson
Written by William Ivory
Directed by Nigel Cole
Running time 113 min
MPAA Rating R
Selig Film Rating–FULL PRICE
I have been a huge fan of Alice Hawkins since her award-winning turn in Happy-Go-Lucky. There was this warmth in her performance that washed over you like a summer day. She brought serious magic to a role that demanded much more than was on the page. Her latest is one of the best films of 2010 and is called Made in Dagenham.
Set in 1968, the story is of equal rights in the Ford Motor Plant in Dagenham, England. Sally plays Rita O'Grady just another woman sewing interior pieces for cars. Her job has been recently been downgraded to unskilled labor. All the ladies in the department are mad about the downgrade. Albert Passingham (Bob Hopkins) is the representative from the union and agrees with the women. After not getting any support from management, they reluctantly go on strike.
With a little help from Albert, Rita hits on the idea that there should be equal pay for equal work. Not only does she want to be skilled labor, she wants the same amount of pay for the same amount of work. This shocks both management and the union. Neither one considers that these 'domestics' are as good as the skilled men on the assembly floor. But, the battle lines are drawn as the entire Ford plant comes to a standstill because there are no finished seats for the autos.
The story is expanded with Rosemund Pike playing Lisa Hopkins, a mother who has a child at the school Rita sends her children. She is a college educated house wife who thinks that the idea is worth fighting for. She is also the wife of the head of the company, having to balance her feminist sensibilities with her wifely submissiveness. As the disagreement become more intense, she must decide whom she is to support.
Miranda Richardson is Barbara Castle, the minister in charge of the dispute. She is this tough as nails woman, never afraid to take on anyone. She is not to choose sides in the dispute, just to get it resolved. Even though she knows what is right, Barbara must not show any favors. Her job is to get results. As as woman in a man's world, there is great sympathy between Barbara and Rita.
Sally Hawkins is just spot-on perfect in an Oscar worthy role. Her character is just an ordinary woman called upon to do extraordinary works. Much like her American movie counterpart Norma Rae, she is another person who sees the obvious wrong and just wants to correct it. She is just another woman called upon to do great things.
Director Nigel Cole gives a perfect sense of both time and place in Made in Dagenham. Both the fashion and the colors of post swinging London abound in every frame. Not only does he give us eye candy in the palate of his lens, Cole delivers a weighty issue without every getting bogged down in the muck of storytelling. We get an easy feel of the elements and the challenges presented without ever being overhanded. It is a deft touch that works magic.
Though to some it may seem silly now, this struggle for full equal rights between men and women was and is of paramount importance. Made in Dagenham shows us just how badly women were treated in the workplace and how in a time of great social changes, the right ideas won out it the end. This is one of my favorite flicks of 2010 and a film that needs to be seen and shared.