Tuesday, October 21, 2014


A mess of vivid characters 
trying to save and change their world

     The economic downturn, which hasn’t exactly turned up yet, resulting in “the new normal,” may be the right context for Americans to connect with Pride.  Yes, it follows in a particular subgenre of working class (mainly) men losing their livelihood and being reawakened by something completely incongruous.  Because of this, there’s both pathos and hilarity.  The British movies The Full Monty (1997)
and Billy Elliott (2000) have been regularly cited by other reviewers, but the American movies Invincible (2007) and even the lighter How to Beat the High Cost of Living (1980) share a number of these elements.  

The LGSM Group
     Pride ups the ante by taking a true double fish out of water story that had overwhelming stakes for both groups (striking Welsh coal miners facing potential starvation and London lesbians and gays facing both homophobia and AIDS in the pre-cocktail era), while also teasing out a strong feminist subtext.  Stephen Beresford’s script is multi-layered, authentically textured in the political and cultural era of the mid-1980s, and it genuinely earns the deeper emotions for which it pushes.  

     The strongest part of the movie is in its presentation of how disenfranchised groups confront power.  The Miners’ Union and the LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) face as much strife in their membership about whether to directly confront their oppressors or try to work with the establishment or splinter away.  My only problem was that Beresford felt compelled to add Joe, a fictional character, who seems to be present for the straight audience to feel sad and then uplifted by an archetypal (or stereotypical for detractors) middlebrow coming-of-age/coming out story.

Dominic West with Imelda Staunton
     Dominic West nails a big dance scene and there’s considerable charm provided especially by Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Paddy Considine, and Jessica Gunning as some of the Welsh village residents.  Therefore, it’s already under consideration as a musical and I’m dreading that eventuality.  While I respected the touring production of Billy Elliott, I felt that the stage version neutralized both the despair and the buoyant joy of the movie by expecting a large, professional cast to behave as if they were singing Verdi.   Plus, Jamie Bell, Gary Lewis, and Julie Walters were irreplaceable from the movie..  

Ben Schnetzer as Activist Mark Ashton
     Director Matthew Warchus keeps a number of subplots bubbling along, but his smartest move was in casting a little known or used American actor in the most compelling role.  From the first shot of his face as he hears about the Miners’ Strike on TV, Ben Schnetzer plays Mark Ashton as a smart, passionate, unapologetic leader.  With his bovver boy boots and jeans, New Romantics haircut, and unassuming strut, I assumed he was a new English or Irish actor.  He neither overplays nor begs for sympathy and because of that, he creates a hero and proves his mettle as a potential star.  I hope he doesn’t sell out and get sucked into some jacked up superhero franchise for 12 year old boys and the emotionally simple-minded.  He’s already playing a superhero – a real one, who did change Britain.  

     To capture some sense of the movie’s breadth, a group of Welsh women go on a gay club crawl with their new lesbian sister comrades.  What could seem ‘cute’ actually plays as funny because of the sincere curiosity of the straight women.  However, it cuts to a brief scene between Mark running into an ex and the underlying ramifications are heartbreaking and frightening.  Are some of the most compelling leaders so energetic because they see the clock ticking?

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