In the cloyingly nostalgic, femme-courting industrial drama Made in Dagenham, Sally Hawkins plays Rita O’Grady, a factory worker in not-so-swinging 1960s England who leads her auto-upholstery-stitching sisters in a successful fight for equal pay for equal work. Rita’s a spunky, birdy wife and mum (which is a good use of Hawkins, the spunky bird who turned the world on with her smile in Mike Leigh’s 2008 Happy-Go-Lucky), but she’s reluctant to lead. Then lovable union guy Albert (Bob Hoskins) gets her fired up, and pretty soon she discovers — bloody ‘ell! — it’s good to have a voice, innit?
The strikes that began at the Ford plant in Dagenham were real, and resulted in precedent-setting changes in labor laws. Rita and her fellow strikers, however, are specimens of an invasive species of Fictionalized Colorful British Ladies bred from director Nigel Cole’s compost of fact. (His previous FCBLs posed in their birthday suits in Calendar Girls.) Waving a dubious flag of feminist inclusivity, Cole and screenwriter William Ivory turn cartwheels insisting that girl power, even in the 1960s, trumped class divisions: An Education’s refined Rosamund Pike has a thankless role as a manager’s wife who sides with the prole ladies. Tough boots for the men, though. Aside from Albert and, in a last-act conversion, Rita’s hubby (Daniel Mays), the blokes are all chauvinist jokes. C