MADE IN DAGENHAM (2010)

TMG Scale 7.0
“Starring”  Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins,  (you will recognize this great character actor) Richard Schiff (TV West Wing’s Toby Ziegler) Miranda Richardson—a few other good actors but no bona fide stars.

This film is pretty much Norma Rae (1979) in England. Fate and terrible working conditions and half the pay of men calls upon a  young spunky mother to make her union stand up for equal pay for women.  Set in 1968 England at the Ford Motor Dagenham plant, little Rita O’Grady (Hawkins) plays the reluctant hero to lead her skilled but politically naive band of union workers all the way to the top of the English Empire to level the playing field with men.

It’s a fun little movie for a snowy Saturday morning. David and Goliath stories with good actors are always inspiring and worthwhile.  When they are based upon real history, they are even better.  When you then can recruit lots of good, but second tier actors and good writers, you have a nice end product.  Not a blockbuster mind you, but this film meets TMG 7.0 rating standards for  “Good film, fun or worth seeing. Try it.” Miranda Richardson gets my nod for the best role in this film as the British Secretary of Labor, Barbara Castle. She’s fun, witty, tough and smarter than most of the men around her. (She’s kind of like Joy Lynn!)

One problem with any film set in England, is the language. Sometimes it is hard to tell if  ‘da Brits’ speak English or some form of alien dialect.  You really have to strain to catch much of the dialogue.  Perhaps subtitles might have helped. The slang expletive “bollocks” comes up in every other sentence.  It seems really unclear what the English really mean when they constantly utter that term, but seems to be the American equivalent of  something in between damn and BS.

You have to stick with a film like this and get into the character development, which is a bit slow by any standard.  You also have to appreciate the struggle of woman worldwide for equal jobs and pay in the 1960’s. I don’t care for the way this film singles out Ford Motor out to be sexist, heartless villains. The fact is it took centuries for women to have a “right” to work.  (I bet many women well regret that “advancement”  though). It took hundreds years for women to get the right to vote in many countries—not until 1920 in the United States. Saudi Arabia still does not give women the right to vote—or much else for that matter. Being accepted to law school and medical schools and becoming judges, company CEO’s, sheriff’s and elected officials in any numbers  took an even longer evolution and is still going on.  So, while it seems harsh by today’s mores that women were paid much less than men for the same jobs in 1968, it was accepted and built into the economy of the world. WWII’s employment of women worldwide did more to set change in motion than strikes.   Brave women certainly spurred the change in dynamic, but with the support of many men. But you cannot blame everyone, let alone Ford Motor for simply accepting the standards of the day.  In TMG’s Catholic high school we actually had a smoking lounge. No one ever outlawed it. Common sense finally emerged. Time and logic change minds more solidly  than left or right wing radical name calling or laying blame where none is due.

Made in Dagenham is way down on the film scale from The King’s Speech in terms of a human interest story of the triumph of the human spirit.  It does deserve honorable mention for giving praise to some brave women pioneers though—and that is a good thing.

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