Screened Out – Pride

By : Stephen Miller
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Ben Schnetzer, George MacKay, Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West, Jessica Gunning

Dancing in the same shoes as Billy Elliott and Kinky Boots, Pride is a genial crowd pleaser. Truthfully, its mechanics and use of song (plus a few clichés) beg it to be made into a big, splashy musical. However, that cannot be done – as these other two movies have proven – until the story itself is popular. This flick is one kick line and a few tunes from there already.

Pride (which opens Friday, Oct. 10) is such a warm hug, a blast to watch, that we might forgive that it feels a little rote. Also, unfortunately, this friendly, sweet film – like those others – downplays an ugly period in the United Kingdom’s history.

In 1984 and 1985, Thatcher and her conservative government announced the closure of 20 coal mines and 70 pits. This was after the UK lost over 2 million jobs in the early 1980s. The miners organized a strike, and the government responded by throttling them, turning a blind eye to police violence, bringing in scabs and cutting off supplies, starving the families.

People were desperate. And the coal miners weren’t the only ones.

Thatcher – like her US buddy Reagan – was largely ignoring AIDS and allowing police and public brutality against gays and lesbians.

Imelda Staunton and Dominic West again show their talent in supporting roles.

Imelda Staunton and Dominic West again show their talent in supporting roles.

A small group of gays in London struck back, assuming that a fight for one group’s rights was a fight for all. These merry, militant misfits raised funds and then looked for a place to donate. When the union repeatedly turned them down, they found a small town in Wales to throw their funds at. Thus began a very unlikely partnership that actually heralded a great shift in the UK’s public opinion about gay rights.

That last part – how this small band of activists and Welsh folks together changed history – is the best part of this film by far. It’s an uplifting tale that is impossible to dislike.

However, so much more could’ve been done to set up both groups’ struggles. We only get the barest sense of crimes against LGBT people, and of the rising specter of AIDS. Also, the miners’ broken bones, their starving families, and the bleak outlook for their already rough lives are only intermittently shown.

Ratings Key

See it now! Buy the DVD! Quote lines at parties!

Definitely worth the price of admission

It’s useful as a distraction

Maybe if someone else pays and you need a nap

Slightly worse than eternal damnation

Instead, we get some magnificent moments in song – some so moving that it’s hard to swallow the lump in the throat. Others are there just for their entertainment value, and it was a period of great tunes – Bronski Beat, The Smiths, and Tears for Fears are on the soundtrack.

It’s so very easy to imagine this material onstage, singing, dancing, and tugging the heartstrings. It could borrow from 1980s tunes and traditional Welsh folk music. There are three or four moments in the film that wouldn’t even need to be changed one bit. First, though, this little flick has to prove its box office mettle. Here’s hoping it gets to the West End and Broadway one day.

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