Based on a true story, Nigel Cole’s 2010 film is about the beginning of the struggle for equal pay for women in 1968, a struggle which begins in a Ford factory in Dagenham, UK. Leading the struggle is Rita O’Grady , played wonderfully by the always-brilliant Sally Hawkins. Joining Hawkins is Daniel Mays doing an excellent job as her husband, Eddie, Bob Hoskins perfect as her union friend, Albert, and Rosamond Pike continuing to impress me in a scene-stealing supporting role as her friend, Lisa. Opposing Rita in this struggle is Richard Schiff doing a commendable job as the hard-nosed American Ford representative.
So far we have a fascinating and important true story with an outstanding cast. Add to that the beautiful cinematography (faded and hazy to give us the feel we are in the 1960’s) and we surely have the makings of a classic. Unfortunately, Made in Dagenham doesn’t seem to know what to do with the treasures it has been given and never really takes off.
This is not to say that Made in Dagenham is a dud. It’s still a very good film. It just should have been better. From the way the struggle for equality is initiated by a man (Hoskins) to the anticlimactic closing scene with the Secretary of State (played by Miranda Richardson in a good but uneven performance), Made in Dagenham squanders its opportunities to bring the film to life and engage and inspire its audience, giving us instead a rather deliberate and unimaginative rendering of an exciting social justice milestone.
It’s not hard to sense my disappointment. I wanted Made in Dagenham to grab me, to be great, but it couldn’t do it. I’m still giving it ***+ because just watching the actors and seeing the story was entertaining enough to deserve that. My mug is up but the blend is a bit bland.