- Running time:
- 113 minutes
- Sally Hawkins -
- Rita O'Grady
- Bob Hoskins -
- Miranda Richardson -
- Barbara Castle
- Geraldine James -
- Rosamund Pike -
- Lisa Hopkins
In the 1960s, female workers at Ford's car factory in Dagenham, England, were considered unskilled laborers who received a fraction of the pay of their male counterparts. Finally fed up, the group—led by reluctant figurehead Rita O'Grady (Sally Hawkins)—decide to put the brakes on the company's gender-discrimination policy by going on strike. They take their grievances to management, to the media and ultimately to the U.K.'s feisty labor minister, Barbara Castle (Miranda Richardson), paving the way for equal pay for women across the nation.
The buzz: Hawkins has popped up on many early Oscar prediction shortlists for Best Actress, and earning a nomination would amount to sweet vindication for her. Two years ago, she was a contender for her lauded turn in "Happy Go-Lucky"—a performance that won her a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical but remained a shut-out when it came to the Oscars.
The verdict: The flight plan for "Made in Dagenham"—laborers unite!—is certainly a well-traveled one; comparisons to the 1979 Sally Field classic "Norma Rae" are inevitable. But "Dagenham" soars because of the effervescent charm of Hawkins, who melds soft-spoken winsomeness with steely reserve. She’s the kind of actress you want to cheer for, and delivers for the cause here, morphing from a shy simpleton to a self-possessed crusader willing to take on Big Business. To its credit, the film doesn't bludgeon you with a rah-rah message, nor does it romanticize the fallout from these ladies' hardball stance—husbands feel emasculated, and the women are demonized by their male co-workers. A solid supporting cast (including Rosamund Pike as the wallflower wife of a Ford executive) keeps the empathy quotient high, but Richardson tends to overplay her scenes with a broadness that's incongruous with the film's overall tone—she tears into Castle's ear-splitting monologues (and there are many here) in an apparent attempt to solicit lowbrow laughs. Can't blame the gal for getting all fired up: Hawkins and her ladies are easy to root for that way.
Did you know? Director Nigel Cole is no stranger to collective girl power. His 2003 film "Calendar Girls," starring Helen Mirren, followed a band of older British ladies who posed nude for a calendar in order to raise money for medical research.
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