Oscarbait 2010: Made In Dagenham

Here we go, the inaugural edition of Oscarbait 2010! The legendary voters of the Academy apparently can't remember anything released before the autumn, which has resulted in the natural industry response of not releasing anything decent before the autumn (although this year there may be a few exceptions: see films with Leonardo DiCaprio).

I was lucky enough to get invited to a free screening of Made In Dagenham at the Odeon in Covent Garden. And after a few directional mishaps (the Covent Garden Odeon is nowhere near Covent Garden!), we made it just in time for the opening credits.

"BBC Films!" rolled the screen, before our collective heads are filled with jaunty English pop music of the 1960s. Jaunty is absolutely the right word for the general tone of this film, whose characters exhibit courage, pluck and determination to conquer any and all enemies, including Richard Schiff!

Made in Dagenham tells the true story of a group of female factory workers who strike to protest the reclassification of their jobs as 'unskilled,' despite the fact that no one else knows how to do it. Eventually this fight morphs into a larger fight to mandate equal pay for women, culminating in the Equal Pay Act of 1970. All very well, all very inspiring (and yes, it is very inspiring. I left the theatre wanting to riot for the Equal Rights Act in America).

So let's get the negative out of the way first. As with any story about triumph over adversity, the movie has it's cheesy moments. The characters never really seem to face any actual threat, although there is a very serious issue at hand. Sally Hawkins et al just have a great time facing challenges. But it's a story about camaraderie, so you can forgive scenes of the women bicycling around town like they're in an English slum remake of the Sound of Music.

The cast is fantastic. I'm starting to think that Rosamund Pike makes EVERYTHING better. Even things that are already awesome. From Pride and Prejudice to An Education to this movie, she lights up the screen with intelligence and beauty. 

But even Pike does not shine quite so brightly as lead Sally Hawkins, who plays Rita O'Grady, the leader of the strike. She powerfully conveys a hundred different emotions with little more than a movement of her eye and a bob of her head. Hawkins is one to watch, and is an early contender for an Oscar nomination.

Miranda Richardson has a lot of fun as Secretary of State Barbara Castle, especially when eviscerating her underlings for patronizing her.

The men are superb as well. Bob Hoskins gives a lovable, if predictable, performance as the inciting figure for the striking women. Daniel Mays was surprisingly sympathetic after his awful, scenery-chewing, show-ruining performance on the final season of Ashes to Ashes.

I recommend everyone go see it, for a heartwarming, feel-good type of movie. It'll put a smile on your face, and maybe even make you think about the world a little differently.

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