Cole’s latest exercise in formula regurgitation is based on what is typically described in advertisements for movies of this type as “the inspiring true story.” In 1968 England, the 187 female workers at a Ford Motor Company plant—most of them upholstery stitchers—are frustrated at having their jobs reclassified as “nonskilled.” Their (male) union rep urges moving cautiously, but the women are prepared to go out on strike behind their new representative, Rita O’Grady (Sally Hawkins)—even if it means the plant will shut down and the menfolk will be out of work, too.
Burning questions undoubtedly prickle a potential viewer. Will mousy Rita transform overnight into a tea-sipping Norma Rae after one humbling encounter with her son’s condescending schoolteacher? Will much domestic hand-wringing between Rita and her husband (Daniel Mays) ensue as he takes on the primary responsibility for caring for the kids? Will there be more speeches about unfairness to women than there are soapboxes in Britain? Which will end up being the more frustrating element: the cheap laughs, or the cheap tragedy?
Will the supporting actors—including Rosamund Pike as an executive’s wife, Bob Hoskins as the ladies’ sympathetic supervisor and Miranda Richardson as a government minister—provide token spark to the tedious plot machinations? And will the snippets of archival footage of the actual strikers that play over the closing credits make you wish desperately that you had instead spent these two hours on a documentary loaded with such material instead of a drama that grinds their achievement into cinematic oatmeal?
MADE IN DAGENHAM
Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins, Rosamund Pike