A roundtable chat with director Nigel Cole of “Made in Dagenham”

Nigel Cole is not the kind of director who becomes a hot topic on AICN with his action masterworks, nor is he the kind of helmer who makes cinephile hearts go aflutter with his unusual directing technique and highly idiosyncratic world view. That isn’t to say that Cole’s latest, “Made in Dagenham,” lacks a certain amount of flair. It’s style, however, takes a definite backseat to clever writing and consistently good, and sometimes remarkably outstanding, performances. Nothing at all wrong with that, especially in a world lacking in good movies about women, as well as movies you can, give or take a little British cursing, safely take Aunt Minnie or Uncle Irv to see. Indeed, even hardened cinephiles should appreciate this well-made and intelligent, if comfortably unambitious and deliberately crowd-pleasing, comedy based on a crucial but overlooked episode from late 20th century British history.

madeindagenham-23

Written by William Ivory and saddled with a ridiculous R-rating, “Dagenham” is the partially fictionalized story of how the entirely fictional Rita O’Grady (Sally Hawkins) moves from anonymous factory worker and devoted wife and mother to working full-time as a leader of what amounts to a nationwide labor movement. Bob Hoskins portrays an idealistic and goodhearted union leader who sets Rita on a path that at first has her leading the opposition to an unfair job classification for female textile workers at Ford Motors, and later has her deeply involved with a nationwide movement taking on the entire idea of paying men more than women simply because they are men.

Though supported by her loving but at times clueless husband (Daniel Mays), an extended strike creates inevitable strains. The story resolves itself as the affair gets the attention of real-life Labour Party legend, Barbara Castle (Miranda Richardson, in a typically biting and hilarious turn), the first woman to attain cabinet status in a British government. Along the way, subplots involve the troubled marriage of her older best friend (Geraldine James) and her chance encounter with the “enemy,” Rosamund Pike as a fellow mom at her son’s school who also happens to be married to a key member of Ford Management (Rupert Graves).

Previously best known for the art-house hit “Calendar Girls” and his first feature, “Saving Grace,” a comedy about an aging pot grower starring Brenda Blethyn and Craig Ferguson, Cole comes across like the down-to-earth bloke you might expect to be behind this kind of a film. Middle-aged and not particularly pretty, he introduced himself as Sally Hawkins, who we’d be meeting a bit later alongside Miranda Richardson, for another roundtable chat, getting the expected laugh from the table full of entertainment journalists.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

You can follow us on Twitter @moviebuffs and on Facebook as well.

Related Posts

“Leverage” seems to be getting better

In the interests of full disclosure, I would have cut “Leverage” from my playlist after a ridiculous second episode (“The Homecoming Job”) if not for the insistence of my wife, who liked the first two episodes a whole heck of a lot more than I did. The premiere was solid, even if it was a little rough around the edges. It’s understandable that a show that tries really hard to be cute (a la “Ocean’s Eleven”) might struggle at the start as the relatively unknown actors get used to playing their characters and working with each other. In “Ocean’s Eleven,” audiences already knew and liked Brad Pitt and George Clooney, and had seen them acting “cute” dozens of times before, so their act went over well.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. “Leverage” is a TNT drama, which (for me) has been a little hit or miss when it comes to original scripted series. I am hooked on “The Closer,” but was never able to get into “Saving Grace” and was too annoyed by Mark-Paul Gosselaar’s distractingly long hair in the promos for “Raising the Bar” to even bother with that show. (I did enjoy the paramedic drama, “Saved,” but it was canceled after only one season.) “Leverage” is about a group of thieves that decide to go the Robin Hood route by enacting their own brand of justice on those that would take advantage of others.

At the center of the show is Timothy Hutton, whom I’ve liked since the days of “Turk 182” and “Beautiful Girls.” He plays Nathan Ford, a former insurance investigator who recently lost his son when the company he worked for wouldn’t cover his son’s experimental procedure. He enlists the help of four criminals — a con artist, a cyberthief, a cat burglar and a martial arts expert — to, and I quote, “pick up where the law leaves off.”

“Leverage” tries very hard to be witty, and it often hits the mark. There was the aforementioned second episode, however. At one point, Ford and his beautiful con artist cohort had to create a distraction at the L.A. shipping docks. So they pose as an obnoxious couple on vacation, complete with Hawaiian shirts and awful attitudes. They were even dragging their luggage around the shipping docks of L.A. — in a post-9/11 world. It was simply ridiculous.

The good parts of “Leverage” actually remind me quite a bit of “Hustle,” a British television show that was also about a group of con artists. Their intentions weren’t as noble as Ford’s, and that’s one thing that bothers me about “Leverage” — they don’t seem to want to keep any of the money. For example, in the third episode, “The Two-Horse Job,” a trainer hires them to retrieve an injured horse from his nefarious owner after the owner set fire to the trainer’s stable. The gang does its thing and manages to get the horse back and steal $12 million from the greedy owner. Do they keep any of the dough? Nope. They give it all to the trainer. This just doesn’t seem realistic to me.

I’ve always been fascinated with the dark side of society which is why I’m often drawn to anti-hero stories like “The Shield,” “Rescue Me” and “The Sopranos.” “Leverage” doesn’t get nearly as dark as those series, but it does live in that grey area between right and wrong. I’d like to see the moral ambiguity get a little thicker, as the victims of the con jobs are often caricatures of villains (with no discernable positive qualities).

So for now, I’m going to keep watching. But if I see Timothy Hutton dressed in a Hawaiian shirt traipsing through the docks of Los Angeles again, I’m going to delete my season pass and not look back.

  

Related Posts