AFI Fest Review: Made In Dagenham
Inequality is such a ridiculous concept, yet remains prevalent in our society to this day. One canít make an argument based on reason or fact why anyone different from themselves, be it color, creed or gender, should be treated differently or given different standards, positive or negative. But while the developed world has made some tremendous strides in the way of equality in recent years, it was less than fifty years ago that women were being treated as second class citizens. Set in that world, Nigel Coleís Made in Dagenham tells the story of the women who helped change everything.
Set in 1968 at the Ford Dagenham car plant in England, 187 female employees have grown tired of being compensated less than their male counterparts for equal work. Led by a woman named Rita O'Grady (Sally Hawkins), the women machinists decide to strike and refuse to resume working until they are properly compensated. A dramatization of real events, the events that transpired facilitated the equal pay movement immensely and helped put some of the first laws regarding the subject on the books.
Though the film occasionally falls into some shallow traps, it does a wonderful job recreating the atmosphere of the decade and mixes moods quite well, treating the serious subject matter with proper gravitas and allowing the funnier moments to be just that.
In regards to the performances, the two standouts are Hawkins (unsurprisingly given the role) and Bob Hoskins, as a manager at the Ford plant who commiserates and assists the women in their effort. Hawkins, who won a Golden Globe for her performance in the film Happy-Go-Lucky, plays the fictional OíGrady perfectly, never really bursting with confidence, instead acting like a real human being would act if thrown into the situation. Hoskinsí Albert Passingham is simply a terrific supporting character, providing the film with a great deal of humor without stealing the spotlight away from his female co-stars. His presence also helps balance the film, as he is only one of two prominent male characters that doesnít come across as either a chauvinistic ass or two-faced scum.
As suggested above, one of the filmís greatest assets is its humor. While not nearly as surprising as the laughs found in Rabbit Hole, the film could have easily been a militant look at the events that transpired in the late 60s, but is more engaging and entertaining as more lighthearted fare. Thatís not to say that the film doesnít have its fair share of drama, but itís a nice mix.
If the film has one glaring hole, itís the relationship between Rita and her husband (Daniel Mays). As you can probably guess, Ritaís involvement with the strike takes a toll on their relationship, but it is because of that predictability that it sours the film. Though the relationship is meant to make Rita into a more well-rounded character, it doesnít really work because the husband is so two-dimensional. A fellow worker at the Ford plant, itís his job to be supportive until Ritaís work begins to affect him, at which point he simply becomes overly passive aggressive. Itís not a crippling aspect, but certainly one that didnít need to be explored as heavily as it was.
Though a great deal of progress has been made, a glass ceiling still exists for most women (and letís not even discuss how women are treated in the worldís less developed countries). Perhaps all we need for full gender equality, however, is another push like the one made by the women of Dagenham. Though not without its faults, Nigel Coleís Made in Dagenham sports some terrific performances, has a great period-piece feel and a real story to tell.
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