DVD Review: MADE IN DAGENHAM- Charming But Slightly Self-Righteous Work-Place Girl Power Flick
A few weeks ago, Made In Dagenham was released on DVD, and for some reason I ended up losing this review in the midst of all of my other articles. Sorry! Anyway, here goes... From the makers of Calendar Girls, comes Made in Dagenham an uplifting story of work-place revolution set in 1968, in which the Ford motor company is about to face its biggest ever threat- from within, as the female machinists revolt and protest over unfair treatment. Why on Earth was this not released on Blu-ray in England, where it is set and will presumably have the largest potential audience, and yet is available in high-definition in America? I realise it's a gently shot film, without spectacular flourishes of colour or explosive sound, but from what I'm reading in the blu-ray's reviews from Stateside sites, it is an impressive if unextraordinary transfer. Made in Dagenham focuses on a group of 187 female Ford machinists who in 1967 protested over their treatment in comparison to the plant's 55,000 male workers, a tender situation that is exacerbated when the evil bosses reclass them as "unskilled" labour, and risk the fury of many scorned women. Don't they know that adage about Hell and Fury and Women? All-in-all it isn't the nicest or most comfortable viewing experience for middle-class males like myself, and I really didn't enjoy the self-righteous Girl Power message of the first half, but I'm pretty sure it will find better reception among women. And it does ease up a little in the second half thankfully. The cast is great, from selection to performance, with Miranda Richardson and Sally Hawkins walking away with the most plaudits, though I have to say I enjoyed Bob Hoskins' performance as Union Representative Albert (let's be honest, I like him in everything he has ever been in). Hawkins is very good as the main focus of the film (it is she that Albert convinces to front the protest movement against the bosses), and it is nice to see her in a relatively straight role after Happy Go Lucky almost made her the most annoying woman in British cinematic history for a while there (the character of course was no reflection on her performance, which was in fact to bloody good for its own good). The film is essentially another mis-com British film, based on economic strife with an uplifting ending, much like Brassed Off and The Full Monty, and even Sexy Boots to a lesser extent. But along with Billy Elliott, those films find their redemption in their fond distractions from their economic condition, whereas Made in Dagenham actually follows through with a victory for the workers. Had this film been made during the nineties, you might suspect that the end would have been slightly different, and the means far more grim, but remember that was a period of economic growth, and we as audiences are always more interested in seeing something different to our own realities. So now, when the economy is all gone to shit, and protesting generally leads to nothing (in Britain at least), it is far more appropriate to offer a film that is somewhat sugar-coated and ends on a high note. It's almost as if the film is offering this as an aspirational tale. In all honesty, Made in Dagenham is probably a more important film than it is a good film, but there are definitely enough charming moments to redeem the almost relentlessly self-righteous tone that tends to distract from the message therein. If you can't tell I'm not a huge fan of politicised films- cinema for me is about escapism, and being taught a lesson, based on the sins of the male members of another generation is never top of the pops for me. Extras Audio Commentary with Director Nigel Cole The Making of Made in Dagenham (13 mins) Deleted Scenes (8 mins): Factory Floor, Rita After Work, Rita Buys a Magazine, George's Medicine, Rita Talks it Over with Eddie, Hopkins and Tooley, Barbara Castle Rearranges Furniture, and Barbara Castle Brings News. Outtakes (2 mins). Made in Dagenham Theatrical Trailer (2 mins). Previews: Additional Sony titles. BD-Live. Made in Dagenham is available to buy on DVD now.