I’ve been tossing around what to say about this movie since I saw it last night. It’s been more difficult than I thought because I enjoyed it and would like to convey that basic fact but many of the things I want to say sound like criticisms. It’s very predictable. That’s not necessarily bad. It’s sweet. That’s not bad, either. The humor is very gentle. Also, not a bad thing.
It’s a true story, but ever since Dallas Buyer’s Club and Philomena I’ve started finding myself feeling suspicious of true stories, especially ones that get their emotional impact from interactions among characters that may or may not have happened.
The movie lurches from one feel good moment to another. That sounds rather ridiculous, but it mostly works, especially if you’re a certain age and really enjoy eighties dance music. Since I’m used to the idea of a script centering on conflict this did have me feeling like the movie was about to end at five or six different moments. The movie’s plot is about a group of gay activists who raise money to help striking mine workers in Wales during the Thatcher era. The main conflict centers around whether or not the miners will be willing to accept help from gays, who were still seen as being a little disreputable at that time. About fifteen minutes into the movie, a representative of the miners comes to London to thank the group for its help. The miner, Dai, takes the stage in a gay bar and there is some grumbling. Will gays accept the miners? Dai makes a short, humble speech and ends it with a gentle joke. Cue the eighties dance music! I might have thought it was the end, but I had barely settled into my chair. The rest of the movie felt like one feel-good climax after another. More dance music!
At some point I realized that I was more or less the same age as many of the younger gay activists in the movie. Despite being on the other side of the Atlantic, I remember the Thatcher era quite well. This movie will not change your life, or even change your opinion about anything. On the other hand, it’s a light upbeat comedy, so maybe I’m asking too much of it. It’s perfectly manipulative. When they started singing “Bread and Roses” the cynical side of me wanted to say, “Oh, come the fuck on,” yet the emotional side of me found myself getting caught up in it anyway. The acting was solid throughout. Perhaps rather than calling it “manipulative” I should say it’s “polished.” For a bisexual whose grandfather was a Wobbly and whose great-grandfather was a miner and who rather misses eighties dance clubs, this movie definitely massaged all the right spots.
Pride aroused a great amount of nostalgia in me, for a time when people who were interested in social justice were liable to be interested in economic justice as well and for a time when gay culture was less interested in bourgeois respectability than it is today. Now, if you pardon me, I need to go dye my hair funny colors and find a dance club that caters to old people.