Starring: Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins, Miranda Richardson, Geraldine James, Rosamund Pike, Jaime Winstone, Kenneth Cranham
Director: Nigel Cole
Writer: Bill Ivory
Original Score: David Arnold
Cinematography: John De Borman
Running Time: 113 mins.
What’s this? A feel good movie, about the underdog(s) overcoming the big bad (i.e. management/government) to ensure something happens for the greater good, yes that’s right were in Britain circa. late 60’s early 70’s and it’s the battle for woman’s rights (specifically equal pay in the Dagenham Ford plant) amidst the picture-postcard era in which the plight is set, chock full of charismatic supporting players to provide quips and something more interesting than the bulk of the main story can provide in such a pedestrian tale. Take this plotline and forsake the main thrust for fighting back for the battle to keep the pirate radio stations going and you have a film very similar to 2009’s The Boat That Rocked, albeit with a few less smutty asides.
This summation sounds damning to say the least, and while The Boat That Rocked was very entertaining it lacked substance of any form, but made up for that with laughs, in the case of Made In Dagenham the plot itself provides something a little more weighty that could have become dull and leaden in the wrong hands, thankfully director Nigel Cole manages to coax a hugely watchable film for the first hour building to an end that feels far too long coming. Thus eliciting little more than boredom, which is a shame as the feeling I left with was one of deflation rather than the feel good, and more importantly well put-together thrust that earlier scenes delivered.
That said it seems prudent to dwell on the good rather than the bad of Made In Dagenham given the last Britcom/drama was the execrable Tamara Drewe, it goes without saying that as the lead Sally Hawkins’ Rita O’Grady is not quite as easy on the eyes as Gemma Arterton though she does provide enough grit and strong characteristics to lead the female rebellion against the “system”. She’s a talented actress and was hailed for her work in Mike Leigh’s Happy Go Lucky and is likely afforded more time to show some spark here than she would have been in a Leigh film, after all Cole did bring us Calendar Girls!
While Hawkin’s needs little in the way of help in commanding the screen she is (as surmised above) surrounded with a winning support cast, hardly unexpected an attribute as it is, standout’s on this front are Bob Hoskins and Daniel Mays both playing to their strengths yet proving to be hugely likeable, particularly Mays in the more challenging role that leaves you wishing for more on his relationship with his wife against the rather dull main story.
Ironically in a film about womens rights none of the women, bar Hawkins and Jaime Winstone standout as being as rounded or well written as the men, and it is in the sub-plots rather than the main narrative thrust that the most enjoyment can be found, something of a shame given the heft of the womens rights movement, a cause lent some reality through the end credits interviews with those that the film is based upon. This aside I would much rather have witnessed more of the great rapport between Hawkins and Mays or Hawkins and Hoskins.
Made In Dagenham’s other strength lies in Cole’s ability to direct actual films rather than TV programmes posing as films, shots aren’t flashy but are cinematic and flow as a film should offering a view of Dagenham of the era that isn’t kitchen sink depressing or gritty but equally doesn’t present us with the cartoon sheen of a Richard Curtis production, and for this we should be thankful.
When Made In Dagenham works,it works, a stronger example of the Brit-com/drama genre that sadly drops the ball as the final furlong presents us with one of the dullest “rousing” speeches of recent history, something of a shame given the strong subject matter.