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Made in Dagenham was one of the films on my Christmas to watch list. Based well before my time in 1968, it's a comedy/drama based on an event that I knew nothing about and whilst it was slow to start, I found it pretty gripping after the initial 20 or 30 minutes.
The film revolves around a Dagenham Ford plant where the sewing ladies whose titles have been decreased to unskilled take action over sexual discrimination and take it one step further by asking for equal pay. The film is about the strike, the way that the girls handled it, the fireworks it set off within Ford and the historical battle for change that was to come.
According to wikipedia and from the real life footage shown at the end of the film, I gather that the main character of the film "Rita O'Grady" is to some extent a fictional character in that she is based on more than one woman, well they could have fooled me because I was convinced by Sally Hawkins' portrayal of this fiery yet somewhat nervous and slightly mousy lead lady.
Her support cast is truly fantastic as well though, I'd go as far as say it was an acting masterpiece wiith the actors and actresses fitting their roles superbly and the characters are strong and memorable. There's a lot of funny lines and generally the East London ladies are very easy to warm to, there's several smaller story lines entwined into the plot and all of them have a purpose. Miranda Richardson as Barbara Castle is particularly entertaining as is Andrea Riseborough as the somewhat tarty Brenda.
For someone my age (25), the attitudes shown not only by the big fish of Ford but also by the male Ford plant workers of the time are surprising and it's easy to be ignorant about what went on prior to the Equal Pay act, overall I found it interesting, compelling, heart-warming and also rather amusing. This is one of my few forays in to British cinema in 2011 and it's nice to see something other than the usual drug-dealing gang in a council estate rubbish.
Genre - Comedy
Run-Time - 114 minutes
Country - UK
Cert - 12a
With the threat of national strikes and female unemployment at it's highest for 25-years, 'Made in Dagenham' is an appealing and topical film, uplifting in a time when the financial winter gloom looks particularly grim. We are heading for a Depression and it's, well, very depressing.
Made in Dagenham is a based on a true story drama of the first ever female car worker strike at the Ford factory in Dagenham, paving the way for women's equal pay rights across the industry and the rest of the western world. The girl's jobs were downgraded to 'non skilled' from semi-skilled across the company by senior management to boost profits and so they got much less than the chaps in similar areas of the factory. This would spark a strike that would eventually bring out 20,000 British female workers a week in various industries in support and so change labor laws forever in Britain.
Although the film doesn't ask the supplementary question of have we gone too far on equal pay and rights, resulting in the absurd situation where female tennis players get the same money as men for playing two sets and two hours less, the legacy of Barbara Castle's law was real, the MP who took up the girls case changing the female psyche forever. But his legacy is not all good news for women, many of childbearing age becoming unemployable because of that need for the work place to bend more and more for them, no surprise most of the jobs to go since 2008 being female ones. This is mainly to do with the fact the big cuts are coming in the public service where women dominate but also it doesn't factor in the obvious fact happy families were also responsible for low female wages and career expectations because that's the situation most women feel secure in. The feminist will bawl about the 18% pay gap but forget to tell you that single men and single women in similar jobs and professions get the same money in 2011, simple as, the wage gap only at around 18% when women choose to have kids and so effectively duck out or concede career progression. Men and women are as even as they will ever be now, the computer and modern technology the liberators.
Sally Hawkins ... Rita O'Grady
Andrea Riseborough ... Brenda
Jaime Winstone ... Sandra
Lorraine Stanley ... Monica
Geraldine James ... Connie
Bob Hoskins ... Albert Passingham
Rosamund Pike ... Lisa Hopkins
Kenneth Granham...Monty Taylor
Miranda Richardson ... Barbara Castle
Richard Schiff ... Robert Tooley
Rupert Graves ... Peter Hopkins
Daniel Mays ... Eddie O'Grady
Roger Lloyd-Pack ... George
Phil Cornwell ... Dave
Albert (Bob Hoskins), the Ford Union rep for the Dagenham plant, has a twinkle in his eye, sensing industrial unrest in the air in the all female car seat finishing department as the girls are not happy with their pay decrease. Most of them work around their kid's school hours and so taken advantage of by their British and American employers.
The stress of a strike is too much for department rep Connie (Geraldine James), her husband George (Roger Lloyd-Pack) sick at home and taking up all of her spare time. So step forward the unlikely hero in Rita O'Grady (Sally Hawkins), willing to negotiate with the management alongside Albert over a pay rise to get some parity in the factory.
But Rita is a tougher cookie than she, Albert and everyone else expected, soon calling the girls out on strike until they get equal pay, an incredibly bold move for the times. Her husband Eddie (Daniel Mayes) is also impressed and supports his wife, until, that is, the strike drags on and there's no work for the lads in the factory, forcing a shut down.
Husbands turn on wives and the tension rises, especially when the American bosses (headed by Richard Schiff from the West Wing) come over and put pressure on the British bosses to fix it quickly before the American girls come out, meaning the union has to put pressure on Rita to back off. But she is an emancipated woman now and liberated by the challenge, promising her workmates that she will take it to the very top. Sometimes in life there is no turning back...
I really liked this, British Ealing Comedy humor of old with a great feel good quality. With a visual and nostalgic Carry On style appeal - the viewer almost expecting Sid James heads to pop out of the toilet bowl at any moment to deliver that wonderful dirty laugh - you can't help but surrender to its charm. The acting is spot on and although one or two of the characters are disproportionately attractive and only inserted to emphasize the various class and gender barriers, the ensemble works well and you buy into the feel of it. There are, however, no black people in the whole movie, presumably deliberate and an example of that 'white flight' from the centre of London in the 1960s as racism peaked, a prejudice not talked about in the film.
This was originally rated 15 by the censors for its use of proper factory floor language, 17 occurrences of the word "f*ck" in the fist half-hour alone. But on appeal this was reduced to 12A by the censors after cuts were made. The controversy was extended when The Kings Speech was assigned a 12a certificate for similar cursing from potty mouth Colin Firth without censure, Tom Hooper claiming it was more in context with his multi Oscar winning film, excuse enough. What the censor really means is working-class people need to be patronized by the middle-class censors, deciding what's bad for them in film, cut from the BBC thought police. The soundtrack is as equally cynical with all the favorites to make sure the CD also makes those Christmas stockings. Richard Curtiss would be proud.
The film is directed by a man (Nigel Cole) and so just as much about the erosion of male masculinity than the emancipation of women, and because of that the male roles are deliberately two-dimensional and passive to contrast the gender barriers. All the men are cliché blue-collar grafters that bring home the bacon, the women cheeky and ready to flash their knicker elastic for a wolf whistle or more. Again, I'm surprised the director couldn't persuade Barbara Windsor to cameo!
The girls wanted equal pay on principal, and fair play to that, coming through in the movie, right up to the tearjerker ending. But ever since those halcyon days for men in the workplace weddings have tumbled and single parent household have exploded, everything out of kilter. Few women find the idea of going out to work to look after a man appealing and so here we all are where a pretty girl is probably home alone tonight watching this film worrying about the bills and mortgage, secretly pinning for those carefree days when men were men and girls didn't have to trouble themselves with such responsibilities and they could shop till they dropped on Saturday. This film doesn't get right into the minutia of those gender politics but delivers the message in the only way the women being sent up here can understand, carefree and with frivolity, the whole problem with employment equality.
Imdb.com - 7.1/10.0 (4,245 votes)
Metacritic.com - 65% critics approval rating
Rottentomatos.com - 80% critics approval rating
The Chicago times - "The unexpected thing about "Made in Dagenham" is how entertaining it is".
The Sun - "So smoothly written and well acted that its humanity and good will leave you with a 1960s buzz of hope that social justice might be at hand; that feeling wears off quickly".
The Times - "While there is a power to this tale of triumph, it is measured against the cold calculation of the familiar Brit-com treatment".
Hollywood Reporter - "Feels as factory-assembled as one of the Ford cars glimpsed in the movie".
The LA Times - "I am woman, hear me roar! And by "roar," I mean drive the Ford Motor Company to such a slowdown that it just got passed in the left lane by Mr. Magoo on an exercise bike".
= = = = = = = Special Features = = = = = = =
Director Nigel Cole waffles on all on his toddy.
*Made in Dagenham: behind the Scenes.
Cast & crew talk about their enjoyable film and try really hard not to be as working-class as their characters by deploying 'luvvy ascents'.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Made In Dagenham is a British film which was released in the United Kingdom in 2011 and so is a very recent movie. Directed by Nigel Cole, the movie stars Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins and Miranada Richardson. You can buy your copy of the DVD from Amazon for a price of £9.99 which I do think is quite expensive.
Plot: Set in the 1960's in Essex, the film follows a group of female factory workers. Fed up of being called 'unskilled' they put up a fight and strike for equal pay. Will they win the fight? Watch Made In Dagenham to find out!
I really enjoyed this movie. I thought that the plot was really interesting and liked the fact that it revolved around a group of strong women.
I liked the movie Calendar Girls and so when I found out that this movie was from the same 'people' I wanted to see this movie even more. There is something so inspiring about groups of women like these (also like the women in Calendar Girls), which makes you feel positive.
I loved the characters in the movie especially the 'no-messing' Rita. The characters are so 'real' and 'down to earth' that you will just love them as they are so loveable, fun and easy to connect with. I think that due to the great mix of characters every one will be able to connect with a character.
I liked the fact that this movie was set in the 'olden days' (well in the 1960's to be precise). I love movies which are set in a different era as I like to see how others lived and what life was like in those days, and so from that point of view, it made a very interesting watch.
One thing which I loved about the film was the fact that as a viewer you feel like a part of the group of women.
I found the movie to be really funny, and there were lots of scenes which made me laugh out loud! So if you like a laugh, you will love this.
One good thing about this movie is the fact that it is British!!
If you loved Calendar Girls then you will love this movie!
Thanks for reading!
May 5th 2011
xd-o-n-z-x (also posted under xdonzx on ciao)
The events of this film all happened before I was born, but I am glad they did happen. Rita O'Grady (Sally Hawkins) and her friends are machinists at the Ford Factory in Dagenham, Essex, which employed some 50,000 men and 187 women. The latter used to sew together the seats and trims.
The film hits the ground running as supervisor Albert (Bob Hoskins) comes to tell the ladies that the bosses do not accept their complaints that their re-grading as unskilled workers rather than semi-skilled was incorrect. A vote to stop overtime and to strike taken previously would take effect. With shop steward Connie (Geraldine James) somewhat distracted by her invalid husband George (Roger Lloyd-Pack), Rita steps up to help and realises that there is a bigger issue at stake. The women were not being taken seriously because of their gender, and they were never going to be paid fairly in relation to men. That was the way it had always been, was now the time to change this?
With a turn by Miranda Richardson as Secretary of State Barbara Castle, the film is packed full of British talent. Throw in Jaime Winstone, Kenneth Cranham, Rupert Graves, Rosamund Pike and Daniel Mays in supporting roles and you have a stellar cast who all convince in their parts, there were no weak links, and the film felt like a team effort, an ensemble piece rather than a star vehicle for Hoskins or Hawkins. Initially I was concerned that Hawkins looked too young to play working wife and mum Rita, but she had me convinced at the end. She pulled it off and played Rita as a gutsy woman fighting for what she believed in, in the face of adversity. Daniel Mays also pulled it out of the bag to play Rita's put-upon husband. I liked that most of the cast were London actors themselves and often spoke in their own accents. The story is not just a recreation of political events, there is humour in the details, the memories of the era and in the one liners and banter between machinists. As I wasn't born when these events occurred I cannot comment on how accurate they are but the events most certainly happened and as far as the political side is concerned I would think it is fairly spot on, obviously the personal lives of the characters would be fictionalised, but it is necessary to give the characters depth and for the audience to relate to them. In this respect I think the director (Nigel Cole) and writer (Billy Ivory) did a good job, as you do root for the girls. There are little details referred to in the film (such as Berni Inns and nasty white café tea cups) that are reminiscent of the period which I think is a nice touch as I remember some things from my childhood in the Seventies.
The film lasts just under the two hours, which is a fair length. To fit in the story and to develop the characters sufficiently, they really couldn't have made it any shorter. The film is made by BBC films and uses National Lottery funding thus the budget is obviously not high but I didn't think this affected the film at all. I recommend watching this for the story, the cast and the humour which all contribute to making this a quality British film. It may not be an international hit I suspect, as there are too many localised references that may not translate well to an overseas audience (but then so did Calender Girls, so what do I know?) but for its target audience it represents a good, real-life story which is both moving and funny and well worth a watch.