See, the thing is, the Brits are great at making these gently uplifting crowd-pleasers – and they’ve made a very good one here – but Americans are kind of terrible at it; so terrible that they can’t even get the trailer right for a good one the Brits made.
Though I hate the trailer, I do like the movie and I have to admit the trailer will probably do a good job of attracting the target audience of old people and middle-aged females. Nothing against those demographics of course, but I don’t like most trailers that pander to specific groups and most especially groups that I’m not in. Sue me.
Based on a true story set in the 1960s, Made in Dagenham stars Sally Hawkins as Rita O’Grady, a blue collar mother who works days sewing upholstery in the Dagenham Ford plant for a fraction of the salary men earn for similarly skilled work. She becomes an unlikely but determined rallying point for the equal pay for women movement despite stiff resistance from not only her employers, but also her husband and the very union that is supposed to be advancing her interests. It’s Norma Rae with a sense of humor instead of a sense of self importance.
Hawkins is an acquired taste that not everyone has warmed up to, but I happened to love her in Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky and she’s equally terrific here in a shallower but still entertaining part. A very likable Bob Hoskins meanwhile is terrific as Rita’s sympathetic boss while Rosamund Pike (who was the best part of another recent English softball, An Education) is also very good in a small but important part as a CEO’s wife whose child goes to the same school as Rita’s. Miranda Richardson is also excellent as a Labor Secretary walking a line between her beliefs as a successful woman, the current political climate and her country’s economic needs.
Made in Dagenham is pretty much by the numbers and offers few genuine surprises, but sometimes there’s a comfort in that familiarity. In this case, the film is confidently and entertainingly mounted all around and you have to be a pretty big sourpuss not to like it at least a little bit. Of course it’s not the kind of movie that is everyone’s cuppa, but it’s everyone’s mother’s cuppa.
If you liked the trailer, by all means check out the movie, but even if you hated the trailer, trust me when I tell you the movie is better.
Made in Dagenham opens in New York and Los Angeles on November 19.