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« "Malkolink Malkolink Malkolink!" | Main | The Oscar Race: Then, Now, Next Three Months »
Thursday
Sep252014

Review: 'Pride,' the Year's Most Adorable Movie

This article originally appeared in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad. It is reprinted here with their permission...

Truth is stranger-than-fiction and also often gayer. The new feature PRIDE dramatizes a largely unknown historical anecdote from the bitter year-long miner’s strike in Thatcher-era Britain when a group of gay activists fundraised for the miners. This alliance is at first an awkward tense match but it eventually finds heartwarming pockets of oxygen when these two unlikely groups are breathing the same air.

It begins with a handful of gay activists (“and lesbian!” their only female member interjects with a small wave in a recurring joke), notice a sudden decline in police bullying in their neighborhood. They make the connection: the conservative government has a new minority to scapegoat. They form a group called LGSM “Lesbians and Gays for the Striking Miners” to help the people suffering without paychecks for months on end — a byproduct of Margaret Thatcher’s war against the unions.

At first, though, these gay heroes can’t even find a miner’s group that will take their money in this cross culture dramedy. [more...]

It’s the 80s and homophobia is still widely felt and officially endorsed. The movie is framed by two gay pride marches, the first coinciding with the 20th birthday of the youngest character Joe (George MacKay). He’s still closeted and living with mum and dad, and our proxy for entering the march and thus the world of this movie. You could argue that Joe is the main character, albeit an initially passive one, but in truth it’s an ensemble movie, jumping nimbly between a dozen or so characters. If Joe is our passive lead, Mark (Ben Schnetzer) is his active counterpart, a tireless activist who is just crazy enough to get this movement going, and energize other people to join in as you can see in this clip from very early in the film...

 

Despite the year long time frame and a ton of characters, the movie feels relatively fleet-footed at 2 hours. Director Matthew Warchus (who will adapt the Broadway musical Matilda next) and screenwriter Stephen Beresford, don’t waste any of those minutes. Pride is packed with ideas about community, solidarity, politics, inner life, and fear. And, we should add, pride itself - that glorious noun that unfortunately makes this adorable but tough-minded and scrappy movie sound way more generic than it actually is.

It helps that the cast is uniformly strong. There are familiar faces doing great work: pint-size powerhouse Imelda Staunton, grounds her cartoon mode in truth; Bill Nighy is more subdued than usual which is absolutely the right decision for his character; Paddy Considine is engaging as the open minded workers rep; and Dominic West has fun, but doesn't condescend while doing that flamboyant “I’m playing gay!” mode. Most of the faces are wonderfully new (to US viewers at least) which helps us to buy into the reality as presented. That reality is gritty and poverty stricken but it's also as fabulous as we like our gay movies to be. You know a movie is working for you when its most undoubtedly embellished moment, an impromptu disco performance in a miner’s hall, is applauded by the hundreds of manly beer-guzzling miners who’ve previously been giving our gays dirty looks.

One reason the movie moves so well, disco dancing aside, is that despite an abundance of characters with their own stories and arcs - we get to know a half dozen characters on both the mining and the LGBT community - what the movie gives us is not elaborate subplots so much as brief anecdotal observations through skillful (and quotable!) dialogue, suggestions of subplots really, from their lives outside of this fundraising and political fight.

If that weren’t enough of an achievement Bereseford's great screenplay also manages to weave in ripples of devastation and panic from AIDS in the 1980s, Thatcher-era hatred and cruelty (a belated riposte to the unfortunate side effect of celebrating that Iron Lady so that Meryl Streep could get a third Oscar), as well as shockingly familiar, beautifully handled scenes about coming out via Joe’s journey. Some of the character beats are predictable and might well dovetail a little too tidily with each other (we get, for example, two nail-biting scenes with a gay man and his mom which play like before and after twin-scenes separated by 15 years). But, again, why quibble? When a movie's heart is so present and it’s so good at entertaining us while also reminding us that the political and personal, in conversation with each other, shape our lives, you just want to hug it. And then quote it ("Where are my lesbians?!?" will be a favorite) and see it again.

Pride, opening Friday in limited releasewould be looking at a major sleeper hit status in the States if this were still the 1990s when such things still happened to comedies from overseas (think The Full Montys and thePriscillas of the world). Instead it’s destined to be one of those movies that people discover after the fact, watching it repeatedly on cable and instant watch services of the future until it’s one of their favorites and they convince themselves that they were early adopters. But why wait when you can be part of the first wave cheering on its unlikely success?

Grade: B+/A-
Oscar Chances: If it's a sleeper success and especially if we were still in the 1990s, I'd say Best Screenplay? 

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Reader Comments (18)

It's opening here in Montréal on Friday, and it's on my "must see" list for the weekend.

September 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBill_the_Bear

I don't want to like this movie-- it feels like one of those movies that people see solely because it affirms their views-- but I can't help it. I smile every time the trailer comes on in the theater.

September 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

My goodness! This has rocketed to the top of my list! Great review.

September 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret

LOVED the movie. Went with a group of friends for a special screening, all were raving. Caught me by surprise, could have easily gone another direction, but didn't. One of the rare times I would see it again in the theater.

September 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoel V

I CAN'T wait for this movie.

September 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

The film does a great job of balancing different tones. Quite a surprise. Would love if it was a crossover hit a la "The Full Monty." The ensemble nature really did a nice job of making sure neither the gays or the miners were stereotyped and provided a three dimensional portrait of both groups.

September 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChris

Lovely review that captured a lovely movie.

I watched the whole time with tears welling in my eyes. The good kind of tears that come from loving that the movie gets what it means to be part of a "community" without being sentimental or falling into cliches.

September 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermurtada

LOVED THIS. I usually hate "stand up and cheer" movies but this one was consistently surprising and charming.

September 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

This sounds like so much fun. Can't wait to see it.

September 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

I wasn't with this movie early on. I thought it far to clean and far too anglosaxon for 1980s Britain, but I guess like the mining town I eventually came 'round to its sweetness and genuine affection for its characters. You're right about it giving enough for a lot of characters to do. None of them really get nothing to do even if it is peripheral stuff. I particularly enjoyed seeing Joseph Gilgun on the screen again, which I haven't had the pleasure of since he was Best Supporting Actor Oscar worthy in THIS IS ENGLAND (I never saw the tv show or The Misfits, but I should make up for that since I like him so much).

September 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

Also, wouldn't it be fun for this to be the (used-to-be-but-not-anymore-i-guess) semi-regular surprise ensemble nomination at SAG? Remember WAKING NED DEVINE?

September 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

Saw this a week ago and I'm STILL smiling. Definitely end of year top 3 material (just behind Boyhood and Two days One Night).

September 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJB

What a review! The film is also playing at the festival here; I didn't plan to see it, but now I added it too my list. Thanks again for your film watching inspiration!

September 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterIvonne

I have been hearing about this film from friends in Britain, and it is certainly on my list of movies to catch. It's a bit like "Made in Dagenham" - great British cast, and politically charged time period.
This may be a niche audience but it's a niche audience with good taste! And who knows it may just catch a wave - if word of mouth is strong.

September 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

Thank you thank you thank you! I'm just back from the screening and am still so happy and full of joy and smiling. Without your review I would have missedd this, as you put it so precisely, most adorable movie.

September 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterIvonne

I am puzzled with all the good reviews why this film is still under the radar. I do hope when it expands it finds a wider audience. It's definitely making my top 10 list of the year. I keep telling people to see it but then it's only playing in a few theaters in the US right now.

October 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDaveylow

First film I've ever seen where the audience applauded during the credits.
The people I saw it with who did applaud said it was very moving, I didn't applaud because apparently I have a heart of stone - I thought it was good but not THAT good.

October 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLouise

My audience applauded too!
Just came back from this, a movie that would surely have fallen through the cracks for me if not for the advocacy here, and I loved it.

October 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

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