Made in Dagenham

Critic rating:
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MPAA rating: R
Genre: Drama
Based on the 1968 strike at the Ford Dagenham car plant, in which 850 female workers walked out in protest of sexual discrimination.
Starring: Rosamund Pike, Miranda Richardson, Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins, Richard Schiff, Geraldine James, Rupert Graves, Robbie Kay, Joseph Mawle, Daniel Mays
Director: Nigel Cole
Running time: 1:53
Release: Opened Dec 17, 2010
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Editorial Review

They're fighting the good fight
By Ann Hornaday
Saturday, December 25, 2010

The spirited 1960s period pic "Made in Dagenham" arrives as something of a postscript to last year's sleeper hit "An Education." In that film, Sally Hawkins was on screen for about a half second as the long-suffering wife of the charmer who seduced Carey Mulligan's naive schoolgirl. Here, Hawkins takes center stage as Rita O'Grady, one of the fictionalized characters in "Made in Dagenham" who tell the real-life story of a group of female Ford machinists who went on strike for equal wages in 1968, delivering one of the first victories of the oncoming feminist revolution.

Fans of Mike Leigh's cheekily subversive 2008 comedy "Happy-Go-Lucky" will recognize Hawkins from her bravura central performance in that film. On second thought, maybe they won't. Here, she plays a meek, reluctant heroine who against her instincts is thrust into the traditionally male redoubts of corporate negotiation and union hierarchy. Like "Norma Rae" with posh accents and tea breaks, "Made in Dagenham" delivers a rousing slice-of-life drama given added spice by a fabulous Carnaby-era wardrobe. Filmmakers William Ivory and Nigel Cole ("Calendar Girls") have taken their share of artistic liberties with the characters, each of whom hews uncomfortably closely to Central Casting stereotypes (we meet the bimbo, the wannabe star, the martyr to her husband's World War II trauma, as well as a steely political trailblazer played with tart scenery-chewing relish by Miranda Richardson).

But if entertainment trumps rigorous history in "Made in Dagenham," it breathes life into otherwise airless tutorials on the intersections between gender and class. Oh, and one more thing "Made in Dagenham" has in common with "An Education": the sublime Rosamund Pike steals every scene she's in, this time as a dutiful executive wife possessed of untold depths. Rarely has an actress radiated such taste, intelligence and empathy in such brief bursts.

Contains profanity and brief sexuality.