Made in Dagenham
06 October 2010
This sexed-up version of events that led to the Equal Payments Act to pass through the UK Parliament in 1970 is neither funny, nor inspiring. The team that brought you Calendar Girls is responsible for this mess. Nigel Cole’s camera couldn’t be less boring and Billy Ivory’s script ticks as many cliches as it can for a stuttering 2 hours. Sally Hawkins and a criminally underused Richard Schiff are the only things that are really worth anyone’s attention.
It’s 1968. Ford’s Dagenham plant is the biggest car factory in Europe. There are thousands of men working on the plant, plus 187 women who sew the leather seats for the Cortinas and Escorts. The women inadvertantly find themselves involved in union negoatiations and soon Sally Hawkins’s Rita O’Grady becomes their ringleader. From going with the flow, Rita and the girls begin an all-out strike for equal payment for sexes after their foreman (Bob Hoskins in fine form) encourages them to do so.
What starts off as a novelty-strike soon takes centre stage in the country’s media and Ford Motor Company sends Richard Schiff over, who does a similar job he did on The West Wing, but on the other side of the political spectrum.
The problem with Made in Dagenham is not in its lack of material, but in its lacklustre execution. This is too safe for its own good. There is subversive element in that Rita and the girls never really give in to external pressures (whether it is their husbands or union chiefs) and push on all the way to the end. However, this is not equally reflected in the liberties the story should have taken.
During the end credits, there are snippets of interviews conducted with the women who were involved in ths strike and it is very hard to imagine them dressing up as the characters do in the film. Yes, more than 40 years have passed since, but I just coulnd’t make the connection - and costumes and props aren’t usually the things that I pay attention to in films. If so many liberties were taken with the costumes and props, why not do it with the story as well? Of course fictional characters and events must have been added, but they serve the plot rather than complement it.
Made in Dagenham is a tepid film. And those are the worst kind of films.