Published Sep 03, 2010Set in 1968, in London-suburb Dagenham, where the entire community is employed at the Ford plant, Made In Dagenham follows Rita (Sally Hawkins), a married machinist with a nervous, unsure disposition, who is surreptitiously selected to represent the 187 female employees (amongst 55,000 male employees) at union negotiations.
When their pay is cut after being classified as "unskilled," it is revealed to Rita that said label is just code for "pay women less than men." Angered by the injustice, spurred on by her encouraging boss (Bob Hoskins) and with the support of the entire female workforce, Rita launches a campaign not just against Ford's unequal pay policies, but against the British government, setting into motion a movement that would lead to a complete reform of the laws governing employment wages and women's rights in the UK.
Moviegoers looking for a galvanizing, female-empowerment story will find all the required elements here: stupid white men in suits just not getting it, "power to the people"-esque montages of female mobilization across the UK, bewildered husbands, protesters clad in platform heels, red lipstick and bouffants, and the occasional clever sound bite ("How will we cope? We're women! Now don't ask such stupid questions").
Yet all this feels very Mickey Mouse compared to previous films that tackled the same subject matter, such as Norma Rae or North Country. I kept waiting for one of Ford's goons to try and run Rita off the road, for her to be attacked by an angry, jobless cog or for her husband to cheat on her while having a depressed night out on the piss. Instead, apart from the laughable chauvinistic misogyny displayed by the men in power and the occasional husband hissy fit, the women aren't actually met with much resistance, thusly rendering the conflict rather benign, almost as if it was just that easy.
For a film whose subject matter is essentially about taking risks, director Nigel Cole doesn't take any. Each scene is meticulously plotted and executed well within the realms of family fun, as if he was afraid to veer too far off the formulaic path to success. While it may boast some exceptional performances, specifically from crowd-pleaser Bob Hoskins, Rosamund Pike (as the wife of a Ford exec joining in the fight) and Miranda Richardson (as an MP with an axe to grind), Made In Dagenham is too polite and cute a film to do the real trailblazing women of Dagenham justice. (Sony)