British Coalminers Strike With A Gay Coalition In 'Pride,' A Crowd-Pleaser
DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:
The new film "Pride" gathers a group of actors, among them Bill Nighy and "The Wire's" Dominic West, to tell the story of a 1980's British coal miner strike unexpectedly joined by a coalition of gay men and women. Film critic David Edelstein has this review.
DAVID EDELSTEIN, BYLINE: The rah-rah-union, rah-rah-gay-rights, boo-hiss-Maggie Thatcher ensemble comic drama "Pride" grabbed me from the first minute. I think it would even grab an anti-union homophobe. It's a perfectly constructed crowd pleaser, like "The Full Monty" or "Little Miss Sunshine", only richer than either. I can see it as a Broadway musical, a movie musical, a Labor Day and gay pride perennial. If the film ran for office, I'd vote for it. I'd march for it. "Pride" is set in the mid 80's, during a huge UK national miner strike that Thatcher vowed to break. The hook, a true story, is that way down in bohemian London, a gay activist named Mark had the notion of collecting money on the miner's behalf. Both their groups he says are being persecuted, both fighting for social justice.
He gathers together his friends and names his organization, Lesbians and gays support the Miners, LGSM. And when someone says that's not a catchy acronym, he says it's a support group not a skiffle band. "Pride" boasts some of the best, famous actors in Britain, meaning the best anywhere. Among them Bill Nighy, Imelda Stauton, Paddy Considine, Dominic West, McNulty from "The Wire" as a raucous transvestite and Andrew Scott, the flamboyant Moriarty from "Sherlock" as West's fearful, sad-eyed partner.
But the younger, less-known actors hold their own. Ben Schnetzer is amazingly likable as the moonfaced, pompadour Mark, and he's wonderfully supported by Faye Marsay as the flame-haired Steph the LGSM's first L and George MacKay as the slender, male ingenue, Joe, who sneaks away from his family's house in the middle-class suburb of Bromley to find a more accepting family. The first act of "Pride" follows Mark and the LGSM as they phone one mining group after another to arrange a meeting. Hang up follows hang up until an elderly woman in an empty hall in South Wales doesn't hang up because she can't quite hear. Considine as Dai, the amiable leader of that Welsh group, makes the trip to London to meet the LGSM - first outside, then in a restaurant.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "PRIDE")
PADDY CONSIDINE: (As Dai) Dai Donovan, from the Dulais Valley, you must be Mark.
BEN SCHNETZER: (As Mark) Yes, hello.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Hi.
JOE GILGUN: (As Mike) Mike.
FAYE MARSAY: (As Steph) Steph.
CONSIDINE: (As Dai) Hello.
DOMINIC WEST: (As Jonathan) Jon, nice to meet you.
FREDDIE FOX: (As Jeff): Jeff.
CONSIDINE: (As Dai): Dai. So LGSM, what does that stand for then? You get a garbled message over the phone. I thought the l was for London - London something. I never dreamed for a moment it was L for.....
MARSAY: (As Steph) Hi.
CONSIDINE: (As Dai) And this money you've raised that's all from gays and lesbians.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Mostly.
CONSIDINE: (As Dai) Right. And well?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) This is just the beginning.
CONSIDINE: (As Dai): Oh?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character) We've got big plans.
CONSIDINE: (As Dai) Well, I'm not going to pretend I'm not surprised, you can see that. Truth told, you're the first gays I've ever met in my life.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR 5: (As character) As far as you're aware.
CONSIDINE: (as Dai) That's true.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR 5: (As character) And you're the first miner I've ever met.
EDELSTEIN: Dai is a nice guy but this alliance is a reach. Some of Mark's gay friends won't help. They say miners were the ones who reliably beat them up. Many miners can't abide being in same rec hall with so-called poofters. One of the best scenes, in fact, is in a rec hall where gays and lesbians stand awkwardly to one side while ashen-faced men stare darkly at them over their pints. That's when someone has the idea to put on a disco record and let Dominic West, Jonathan, take the floor. This true story has obviously been sweetened a bit and while pride has plenty of harsh notes, disappointments, rejections, rapidly homophobic antagonists, even brutality, the vibe is upbeat. It works on you, this movie - nearly every line makes you cackle or puts a lump in your throat or both. Matthew Warchus directed from a script by Stephen Beresford. And I have a feeling both those names will become very familiar. You probably already know the name Bill Nighy and "Pride" gives you another chance to marvel at his minimalism. As the miners shy treasurer, he can break you up by walking through a door seemingly disconnected from his long limbs, the Frankenstein monster as a dotty uncle. West nearly dances off with the film, not so much for the characters flamboyance as for how it meshes with his sour cynicism. I could go on about the supporting actors, particularly Jennifer Gunning, as a wife and mother who moves to the forefront of the miners. But I probably gushed enough. The message of the movie "Pride" is potent even three decades later. Despite the chasm between their cultures, urban gays and blue-collared, union workers under this sort of government are more alike than unlike. And they have a great deal to teach each other.
BIANCULLI: David Edelstein is film critic for New York Magazine. Coming up, I review the new Amazon series "Transparent." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.