Starring: Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins, Miranda Richardson
Directed by: Nigel Cole (“Calendar Girls”)
Written by: William Ivory (debut)
As the credits roll in the pleasant-enough drama “Made in Dagenham,” archive footage is shown of the real English women who stood up for their rights as workers at the Ford Motor Company in their hometown during the 60s. Director Nigel Cole’s (“Calendar Girls”) assessment of the historical event shoehorned into a two-hour crowd-pleaser ended just fine, but there was something sorely missing from the final product – a little edge.
Even a hint of genuine rawness would have given the bubbly “Dagenham” a much-needed nudge away from the melodramatic elements it uses as a crutch. While the film hoped to evoke thoughts of “Norma Rae” or even the more recent “North Country,” “Dagenham” is merely dainty in its delivery.
Still, the most impressive things about “Dagenham” are the actresses that inhabit these real-life characters. Sally Hawkins plays Rita O’Grady, a Ford employee who leads her female co-workers against the manufacturer to get them to fix the factory’s poor working conditions (the women sew upholstery for the cars and usually do it in their unmentionables because they are without air conditioning). Soon, Rita and the gals – with the help of a sympathetic union leader (Bob Hoskins) – become more confident and decide to go on strike until Ford agrees to pay them the same wage as male employees.
As much inspirational fervor you find behind the women’s intentions, there is also a patronizing tone that lingers throughout much of the second half of the film. Credit most of these tacky, TV-sitcom moments (“Way to go honey!”) to first-time screenwriter William Ivory, who is far more interested in patting these women on the back than he is giving them a sense of empowerment that cuts deeper than the cautious script allows.