Made in Dagenham
Everyone loves Mr. Smee!

Theatrical Release Date: 12/24/2010
Director: Nigel Cole
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins, Daniel Mays, Rosamund Pike, Geraldine James, Andrea Riseborough, Rupert Graves, Miranda Richardson


Forget Woodstock, the ’60s were about Bike-apalooza!

Workers of the world unite! At least, that’s what the 187 female machinists working in the Dagenham Ford manufacturing plant hope will happen in 1968 when they go on strike in order to gain equal pay with their male co-workers.

Titled, appropriately enough, “Made in Dagenham”, the film is based on a true story and centers itself on Rita O’Grady (Sally Hawkins). She’s thrust into a leadership position among her co-workers, and leads their struggle for paycheck equality at a time when the men running corporations thought that paying women the same as men would lead to financial ruin and a company shutdown.

All of their union reps are men who don’t see the need to rush ahead for progress’ sake but one of them (Bob Hoskins) plucks up the courage to help them fight the good fight. Oh, and O’Grady’s husband is a loving man who shares many of the chauvinistic tendencies of the era but eventually sees the light. And one of the Ford executives is married to a highly educated school teacher (Rosamund Pike) who bolsters O’Grady’s nerve at a crucial point. And the British Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity just happens to be Barbara Castle, so her support of the female employees is far from shocking. Etcetera, etcetera.

Sarcasm aside, as you might be able to ascertain, director Nigel Cole doesn’t stray too far from the formula when it comes to films about labor unions fighting The Man. This is true of characters as well as plot, with various co-workers of O’Grady being filled in from Stock Archetypes ‘R Us. Basically, if you’re looking for an inspired approach to the events that transpired, expect disappointment.

Still, I must admit that despite the film’s predictability I enjoyed the overall experience. Most of that credit goes to the actors, specifically Hawkins. Coming off of a truly amazing performance in 2008′s “Happy-Go-Lucky“, there isn’t as much to sink her teeth into with this role but her infectious charm creates a connection with the audience that the script and direction does not.

Playing her husband, Daniel Mays shows that his exceptional supporting role in the “Red Riding Trilogy” (as a mentally challenged youth institutionalized for a string of murders) was no fluke. He elevates a very stereotypical role and injects some real emotion into the interplay between he and Hawkins.

The rest of the supporting cast do what they can with what they’re given and as long as you’re okay with an overall saccharine sheen to the project, I’d classify this as a basic crowd pleaser. Actually, it’s rather appropriate that “Made in Dagenham” follows the exploits of automobile workers who perform repetitive tasks because the story unfolds like so many movies of its ilk beforehand have done so. It won’t make any Top 10 lists if that’s what you’re looking for this time of year but the fundamental entertainment factor earns it the passing score, a 3 out of 5.

3 out of 5