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Made in Dagenham is everything you would want from this type of comedy: funny, smart, dramatic, tragic and with a good amount of politics and history to boot. Calendar Girls director Nigel Cole has avoided the trap of letting one element overshadowing the rest of the film, which is now on DVD and Blu-ray.
The wonderful Sally Hawkins leads an all-star cast of likes of Bob Hoskins, Miranda Richardson, Rosamund Pike, Jamie Winstone (daughter of Ray) and Richard Schiff. Hawkins plays Rita O’Grady, the reluctant leader of a group of striking woman at Ford’s Dagenham plant, fighting for their status and the right for all women to equal pay. Under her mentor, Albert (Hopkins), she has to lead her women against the management of Ford, the elitism of the unions and sexism of men in many forms. She forces these woman out of work and it effects her family as she claws for the attention of Secretary of Employment Barbara Castle (Richardson) about Equal Pay legislation.
Hawkins’ performance was outstanding throughout, mixing great comedy and dialogue with a dramatic quality, giving us an organic, believable and likeable character. We see her grow from a reluctant leader and a good mother to a strong, charismatic, witty character. Hawkins shows why she is becoming one of the most respected British actresses around.
Hoskins too offers a fine performance of comedy and seriousness. Many of the characters are well developed, from Sandra (Winstone) who wants to be a model, the intelligent upper-class wife of a manager, Lisa (Pike), who wants to help the woman’s strike, to a fine comic performance by Richardson as the intelligent, fierce government minister who has to be battle her dimwitted aides.
Billy Ivory writes an excellent screenplay, making the audience laugh and feel the tragedy. The comic dialogue is grounded and placed in a realistic situation, like the raunchy woman on the factory floor to many conversations throughout the film. With Cole’s direction, the film was able to balance the comedy with the serious drama and makes the issues its raising engaging. There are fine examples of showing a complex picture, like the people who are meant to support the women strikers are themselves sexists who look out for their male members. There is a really tragic performance from Roger Lloyd-Pack (who is known as a comic actor) who adds some harsh reality to the film. Cole’s direction is a colorful and positive for most of the time. David Arnold gives the film an upbeat ’60s soundtrack whilst Cole focuses on a more romantic view of the period with hot pants, women’s liberation and partying.
You will have a smile on your face afterwards.
Made in Dagenham
Directed by Nigel Cole
Written by Billy Ivory
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Daniel Mays, Bob Hoskins, Jamie Winstone, Richard Schiff, Rosamund Pike and Miranda Richardson