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Made in Dagenham

Winning story of women winning a labor dispute

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There's a pretty good chance you'll really, really like Rita O'Grady (Sally Hawkins), a working-class British gal who led women in a 1968 strike against the automaker Ford: She's a Norma Rae of sunshine standing up for equal pay, and the strike produced new labor laws in Britain. Nigel Cole, directing William Ivory's articulate script, often uses a telephoto lens to create a documentary feel, and the period detail is spot on. But don't go expecting anything like the seminal work of Ken Loach or his offspring Mike Leigh, whose films make you feel like you're eavesdropping. This is Hollywood on the Thames, complete with a sprightly pop soundtrack, and I watched it with an audience hungry for justice and entertainment. Lovely Rita is book-rule plucky: She runs on instinct and courage, and she learns the politics as she goes along. Thank goodness Britain's Secretary of State (Miranda Richardson) was a woman who got it, because the men sure didn't: Rita's sweet supportive husband finally snaps under the strain and reminds her that he doesn't go out drinking and screwing. He wants to be congratulated for not being a jerk like the other men, but in the movie's nicest moment, she only reminds him: "That's how you should be." Starts Fri., Jan. 14. Regent Square

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