Saturday, September 27, 2014


 3.5 / 5 

About halfway through Pride, a lone female voice rises up in, well, pride.  She's the wife of a Welsh coal miner, a group of people who stood in defiance of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, knowing full well that to do so would cause grief and anguish and would likely turn public opinion against them.

That defiance struck a chord with a group of gay and lesbian Londoners, who recognized unlikely parallels with the coal miners.  Pride is the unlikely true story of how one group of marginalized people stood up for another and came to an unexpected alliance.

After raising a few hundred pounds for the striking miners, whose livelihood during their yearlong strike depended on the altruism of others, the gays and lesbians pay a visit to the depressed coal town in southern Wales, where they aren't exactly welcome.  Until they begin to dance.

Pride is that kind of movie, where deep social divisions can be broken down in moments by a well-timed disco dance.  In other words, it might be based on a true story, but you would be wise to wonder how much of it actually happened this way, especially that made-for-the-movies moment where one voice slowly becomes a chorus of women, who look knowingly at their husbands until they sheepishly join in, joined by the gays, who sing with smiles in their voices.

At that point, I half-expected the first-act curtain to drop, because Pride seems at times less like a movie than proof of concept for investors in the all-but-certain West End musical version.  If it comes to that, the book will need a little retooling, because Pride sometimes lacks focus as it veers from a coming-out story of young Joe (George MacKay) to the story of two long-time partners (Andrew Scott and Dominic West), one of whom is estranged from his conservative Welsh mother, to the private lives and prejudices of the Welsh coal miners, including one played by Bill Nighy, who drops a not-unexpected surprise around the time that an eleventh-hour showstopper will be needed during the musical.

Pride touches on Thatcher-era politics, gay rights, the AIDS crisis, issues of class distinction and anti-gay violence -- it does a lot of things, and sometimes has a hard time keeping up with all of them.

There are so many characters the movie struggles to keep up with all of them.  They include the founder of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, an idealistic man named Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer); the headstrong chairwoman of the miners' welfare committee (Imelda Staunton), the quiet wife (Jessica Gunning) who finds her sense of self; the angry, embittered widow (Lisa Palfrey), who can't abide the gays; the quiet leader of the miner's group (Paddy Considine), who has to defend his support of the gays and lesbians.

Each character gets so little time, and the history of the mining conflict is incorrectly (for American audiences) presumed to be familiar history, that Pride rolls around a lot, sometimes ignoring key plot points until they're convenient, like the scene in which one character is savagely beaten -- then forgotten.

Still, it's not only possible but entirely advisable to forgive Pride these failings, because what the movie really wants to do is rouse the spirit and focus on one strange and unexpected moment in which two entirely opposite sides came together -- pretty permanently, according to the end credits.

Pride makes up for its shortcomings with a genuinely warm heart, a magnanimous spirit that insists there is nothing so wrong with the world that a little friendship and a lot of dance music won't fix.  The joy of Pride is how it makes you believe that.

Viewed Sept. 27, 2014 -- ArcLight Hollywood


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