That cast is led by Sally Hawkins as Rita O'Grady - a smart, sparky seat-cover seamstress whose husband Eddie (Daniel Mays) works at the main Ford plant as they both bring up their kids. She's perfect for the role, showing off the character's wit, strength, determinism and grace - all imbued with a classy femininity and power. Hawkins doesn't steal the picture though, and the cast shows a depth and quality that's admittedly lacking in some of the contrived set-pieces and dialogue. There's a real truth and weight to the relationship between Connie (Geraldine James) and WWII vet husband George (Roger Lloyd-Pack), but the conversations between Rita and Eddie don't do justice to the performances of O'Grady and Mays.
The same can be said of the cliché-ridden chats between Secretary of State Barbara Castle (Miranda Richardson) and her staff, or the antics of wannabe model Sandra (Jaime Winstone). Throughout though, the depth of the ensemble does more than enough to keep things afloat. Rosamund Pike, for one, lends a strength of feeling to her situation as taken-for-granted wife Lisa, and another fine example is Bob Hoskins. His turn as a kindly union boss is so charmingly avuncular that you feel won over despite some of the trite things he comes up with. If the RMT had Hoskins instead of Crow as their favoured Bob, every working person in the UK would down tools in an instant at his slightest smile.
Producers Stephen Woolley and Elizabeth Karlsen have proudly claimed that Made In Dagenham is a "populist" film rather than a "political" one. It's a smart thing to say, as most of the public wants entertainment rather than a lecture when they go to the pictures. It's not completely inaccurate either, as while there's a couple of serious, tearjerking moments, this ain't Ken Loach. But, like a catchy political pop song, Made In Dagenham sneaks in a crafty punch, bringing through messages of strength through unity, class consciousness, friendship across social boundaries and, of course, equality of the sexes. The heart of the film is so firmly in the right place that it's easy to ignore any quibbles about the soundbite exchanges and occasionally irksome set-ups. That, plus the wonderful cast, warms you to the core, and really does earn Made In Dagenham its feel-good tag.
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