February 4, 2014

Made In Dagenham

Reporter: What if Mrs. Castle says “no deal”? How will you cope then?
Rita: Cope? How will we cope? We’re women. Now, don’t ask such stupid questions.

I expect adjectives such as “gritty” are used to describe this sort of film, where families live in tower blocks and fridges get repossessed. It had a sort of Full Monty feel about it, the Working Classes making the best of a bad deal and everyone lives happily ever after because the benchmark was so low in the first place. I enjoyed watching it and rooting for the women, but I didn’t think it was a happy ending, when, as Rita told her husband when he was expecting to be thanked for helping out with his own kids, “That’s as it should be.”

Sally Hawkins is well cast as Rita, the accidental heroine of the strike; while Miranda Richardson has a couple of unavoidable “Who’s queen?” moments as fiery MP Barbara Castle, and Pete spotted Toby from the West Wing as the Evil Capitalist from America.

Made In Dagenham takes material that is potentially as dreary as the faux-leather upholstery of the Ford seats the women are stitching, and makes it sexy and funny to watch, but left me with a slightly bitter aftertaste. At one point, Castle offers the women a pay rise bringing them up to 75% of the men’s salary, and the fact that it was less than this to start with shocked me. But isn’t it still the case that nearly half a century later, there is a real gender pay gap? And isn’t it still the case that there are men in management who do treat women as decorative tea makers? And didn’t the manufacturers’ threats to move their operations out of the UK come true anyway?

This may have been a feelgood film, but its effects are rather short-lived.

Karen

6 thoughts on “Made In Dagenham

  1. Yes to all of the above. I loved the film, but did spend the end of it loudly giving forth about how we still don’t have equality.

    I am reminded that when the film came out there was a push to get it a lower classification than the 15 it has because it’s an important subject that younger teenagers should see, but the swearing kept it at 15. I barely noticed the swearing because it fits the piece.

    Clair on February 4, 2014
  2. What swearing? I’d show that to Bernard if I thought his attention span was up to it.

  3. It was the first step towards the principle of equal pay in law, which is a pretty massive achievement. They underplayed that. I like Sally Hawkins too, but in Classic Hollywood style they base the story on an individual character arc – this is one case where the story was really about collective effort, not about one person’s inspirational speech making… Hollywood is all about the remarkable, exceptional individual, the hero. That kind of story didn’t apply here.
    When you see the tiny glimpse of interviews with the real women from the Ford factory at the end of the film it makes you think it was a wasted opportunity. It would have been so much more powerful if they could have made a documentary and interviewed them.
    Hello, by the way…

  4. Sally Hawkins is the best thing in this film.

    Much of the time I felt I was watching a watered-down version of Norma-Rae. I enjoyed it, but as a Made for TV Movie, rather than something I pay extra to see on a big screen.

    The main problem was it was all so predictable, and like Karen, at the end I felt we really haven’t progressed.( Personal note- a manager once said in all seriousness to me that men should be paid more because it was their role to support a family)

    In addition to the gender issue, this movie reminds me that the western economy is broken. Where once a family could live well on one salary, it now requires two to make it to the end of a month without worrying about paying the bills.

  5. Annie makes an important point — (Hello Annie, btw) –Do we judge a movie on it’s own ambitions, or on what we wish it was?

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