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Review: Pride (2014)

Pride (2014)

Directed by: Matthew Warchus

Premise: Based on a true story. In 1984, British mineworkers went on strike to protest mine closures proposed by the Thatcher administration and were met by violent resistence from authorities. In response, a group of sympathetic gay activists began to raise money on behalf of the miners and forged an unlikely alliance.

What Works: Taking place in 1984, Pride is a period piece and the filmmakers do a very effective job of putting the audience in that particular time. Some of that is in the set and costume design. The locations and props of some period pieces have a shiny, plastic look and the setting comes across as a museum exhibit instead of an organic environment in which the characters live and work. Pride looks authentically of its time because the setting looks lived in by its characters. The filmmakers also provide the context for the story so that it makes sense to viewers unfamiliar with the topic. The political and economic atmosphere of the time are laid out very well without being dampened by unnecessary exposition. This is true of the background to the mining strike but it is also the case with regard to gay rights. The filmmakers are able to recreate the hostile atmosphere that gays experienced in the mid-1980s and do that organically through the narrative. Pride tells the story of two groups that formed an unlikely alliance and the movie is a feel-good story. However, that feel-good quality does not become obnoxious and the filmmakers generally show good judgment for when to press the emotional buttons and when to back off. It is also very funny and the humor keeps the movie from becoming sanctimonious. The title of Pride refers to the desire for respect and that is the quality that links these two groups of people together. The miners and the gay activists don’t initially see their lives as having anything in common but they gradually come together when they recognize the desire for dignity in each other’s struggles. This is dramatized very well with both groups having to overcome initial doubts and fears and gradually learning to respect each other. The story of Pride is built around a still closeted young gay man, played by George McKay. He is new to both the gay subculture and to politics and he is the ideal point of view character for the film. McKay plays the role very well, embodying the sense of earnestness and justice that defines the movie. The cast also includes Andrew Scott as the leader of the gay activists. Scott is a very charismatic presence but he manages to be more than a rabble rouser. Pride features Bill Nighy as a labor board member and Nighy’s performance is unusual for the actor. He is typically very high energy but here Nighy is much more subdued but possess a quiet dignity. Pride is not a faultless movie but it does tell this story in a very earnest way and because of that the feel-good qualities are earned.

What Doesn’t: Pride suffers from being a little too on-the-noise in places. The politics of the film are generally well handled but in a few moments the dialogue is a little too speechified or the scenes are overly dramatic, especially in a sequence in which the miners and their gay allies join in singing “Bread and Roses.” The straight characters tend to divide between being allies or enemies of the gay characters. There is very little gradation in between. The depiction of the homosexual characters also tends toward stereotypes and they appear in exactly the way that cinema typically imagines them: the men are effeminate and the women are tough and punkish. In one of the key scenes of the movie, the gays coordinate a dance at the union lodge and one of the characters, played by Dominic West, goes on an elaborate dance routine that wins over many of the miners and their families. It’s a minor hiccup in what is otherwise a very satisfying movie.

DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurette, and trailers.

Bottom Line: Pride is a lot of fun. It tells an involving story with engaging characters and the earnestness of the movie ought to win over even the most cynical viewers.

Episode: #525 (January 18, 2015)