Sony // 2010 // 113 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Kelly (Retired) // March 24th, 2011
1968. It's a man's world. But not for long.
Made in Dagenham is a perfectly pleasant way to spend two hours, but it feels more like a TV production than a fully fledged cinematic feature. Recounting the efforts of women working for the Ford motor company in 1968 to try and achieve equal pay across all genders, Made in Dagenham benefits from decent acting and a sturdy screenplay, but director Nigel Cole potentially lets the side down with his workmanlike shift behind the camera. Cole carries the gig off competently, but fails to bring the required sense of scope that might have elevated the picture above its obvious small screen aesthetic.
The women of the Ford Motor Company in Dagenham have become disillusioned with their subsistence level wages and nightmarish working conditions, their anger inexplicably being channeled through meek housewife Rita O'Grady (Sally Hawkins, Never Let Me Go). Rita and her gaggle of chums decide to strike until they are granted equal pay, an action that eventually derails the entire factory and ultimately local economy. However Rita continues to display rigorous determination, eventually gaining the attention of supportive Secretary of State Barbra Castle (Miranda Richardson, The Crying Game).
The characters featured in Made in Dagenham are both well drawn and engaging, a combination of nicely adjusted performances and substantive writing providing the feature with a host of bubbly and likable protagonists. The picture unquestionably has its heart in the right place, mounting a story of feminist triumph without resorting to worn out clichés or sickening schmaltz. I'm not saying every narrative beat is a fountain of originality, but ultimately the picture has enough soul to pass muster as a credible drama.
Sally Hawkins gives a warm and dedicated central turn, bringing an admirable spectrum of emotions to her depiction of Rita. When the film reaches it poignant crescendo Hawkins is able to carry it off marvelously, but her subtle handling of the characters' day to day feelings are almost more inspiring. Without overcompensating Hawkins is able to transform Rita into a quiet yet infinitely strong screen presence, giving an otherwise fluffy picture a much needed jolt of gritty commitment.
The supporting cast are also on affable form, indeed the only person who
somewhat disappoints is filmmaker Cole. Made in Dagenham is a cozy,
straightforward endeavor, the director failing to instill this real life tale
with the flourish it desperately needs to set itself apart as a certifiably
rewarding slice of theatrical entertainment. Cole is content to utilize his
camera in an adequate but uninventive fashion, and his handling of the narrative
feels at times a little obvious and clunky. The film isn't exactly a short sit
either, Made in Dagenham reaches a natural conclusion at about the 95
minute mark, but Cole sees fit to continue proceedings for another quarter hour.
As a result the whole enterprise appears overstretched.
As a recount of a major moment in the history of gender equality, Made in Dagenham is fairly good. As a drama it largely succeeds as well, although a little added audacity from behind the camera would almost certainly have helped. I can give the film a recommendation as a moderately charming and educational rental, but it's hardly a classic.
This Blu-Ray disc looks and sounds excellent, especially during the movie's cheerier and more adventurous moments. The lack of directorial identity evidenced in the feature limits the discs ability to really impress, but generally this is a technically robust release. The bonus content is interesting, including an audio commentary from Cole himself. He speaks with genuine passion about the project, even if in execution his work feels like that of a jobbing filmmaker. Also included are a featurette (worthwhile but far from groundbreaking) and a selection of deleted scenes and outtakes. Seeing as the movie is already too long in its current form, this extra footage isn't exactly screaming out for inspection. Overall this is reasonable Blu-Ray from Sony, although I once again stress renting it over a purchase.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 113 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes