“Pride,” the feel-good movie of the fall, is an utterly charming British reminder that there’s nothing scarier to politicians than when seemingly incompatible electorates discover their common interests. Those who want us divided don’t want us to remember that “united we stand.”
In Thatcher’s Britain, the war of organized labor came to a head with the 1984-85 miner’s strike. The Conservative government sought to try and lift the country out of its economic funk by closing down factories and coal mines all over the country. And if a by-product of that was to break unions and throw hundreds of thousands of Labor voters out of work, so much the better.
Miners went on strike; riots ensued.
In London, Mark (Ben Schnetzer) is a young, headstrong gay activist who realizes the cops are too busy busting miners’ heads to hassle him and his friends. He impulsively decides to show solidarity with the miners at London’s 1984 Gay Pride parade.
“It’s not been planned. It’s not been thought through. But it’s a really good idea.”
Maybe it is. Realizing that the right wing press, the Thatcher government and the police are common enemies, Gay Britain has a lot to gain by sticking up for Labor.
But it’s a hard sell. Miners are rural, conservative – subterranean rednecks. They harass and bully homosexuals. First Mark has to convince his community to accept these one-time enemies as friends. Only half a dozen or so join Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners – including flamboyant actor Jonathan (Dominic West), spunky Steph (Faye Marsay) and closeted pastry chef-in-training Joe (George MacKay). They raise money, enduring abuse from their fellow gays as they do.
Then Mark has to convince miners to accept it. This proves to be even more difficult. But then they stumble onto the idea of adopting a town, helping feed the families out of work because their men are on the picket line. That’s where the small Welsh town of Onllwyn comes in.
The fun in this comic historical drama is in the culture clash, the dated prejudices trotted out by screenwriter Stephen Beresford for more enlightened, modern audiences to giggle over. No, not every miner is a gay-bashing thug, the gays must learn. And the miners have a ways to go themselves. Only a little get-together and dancing to Culture Club can bridge that gap.
That comes when the gay activists pile into a bus and force the town – in the nicest way – to accept them by dealing with them as people, face-to face, people fighting the same enemy.
Paddy Considine plays Dai, the first miner to figure that gays and their disposable incomes, experience with police misconduct and history of agitating are natural allies. Considine, Bill Nighy as the painfully shy union secretary, and Imelda Staunton as the no-nonsense organizer of the logistics are the heart of “Pride.” Director Matthew Warchus makes their scenes of acceptance downright inspiring.
And West has the Guy Pearce/Terrence Stamp role in this “Priscilla: Queen of the Desert” meets “Brassed-Off.” Jonathan, cynical and embittered, can only keep his flamboyant persona under wraps for so long. Of course he’s the life of the party. We just have to wait for it.
The joy of “Pride” is that it delivers so many easy laughs – little old ladies discovering leather bars, sexual appliances and the like – that when it hits you with a lump-in-the-throat moment, it’s unexpected. Even people far removed from the coal fields of Wales can take pride in just how far the world has come in the decades since this romanticized alliance in service of a lost cause.
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