Pride (2014) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
27Dec/140

Pride (2014)

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Pride is about the formation and struggles of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) in 1984.  As Margaret Thatcher made it difficult to support the miners through the normal channels, a politically motivated young man named Mark Ashton got the idea to create LGSM as a way to bring two struggling groups together against the oppressive Thatcher regime.  Matthew Marchus directs Pride from a script written by Stephen Beresford.

Strength in solidarityOne of my favorite scenes in Pride is also the most quiet.  An old woman, meeting lesbians for the first time, has her inquiries shushed by her embarrassed friends.  When she finally gets an opportunity to ask her questions they do sound a bit silly, but the women of LGSM talk to her patiently.  So she sits, thinking about the answers she's received, and the camera watches as her face goes from satisfaction to confusion then deeper thought.  Pride, for all its energy, works best in these moments where maligned groups of people get to learn more about each other and realize there's only so much they can share in a short period.  Wouldn't it be better to have an environment that fostered these relationships from the start?

Pride answers this with a fabulous yes by peppering the screen with bombast when its characters aren't learning more about one another.  There's a certain musical quality to Pride as its led off by a modest recording of "Solidarity Forever" that will be revisited multiple times in the film.  In between the observant character beats and dramatic revelations are disco dance-offs, concerts, numerous group singalongs of other union songs, and a soundtrack filled with soaring guitars that sound like the '80s never ended.  All of this is tossed together with direction by Matthew Warchus that keeps the camera and visuals as interesting as the music and protestors.

Direction

Pride keeps surprises in the fore and background of each scene as Matthew Warchus moves through various planes of action.

The biggest and best weapon in Pride's arsenal comes from the screenplay written by Stephen Beresford.  During another one of the more low-key moments Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer) is asked why he would want to help the miners after the way they've treated the gays.  His response: "What's the point in supporting gay rights if you're not going to support worker's rights or women's rights?"  That response, along with many other moments in the film, had me quietly applauding the wonderful outlook of Pride but what happened afterwards was even more important.

But Beresford's screenplay doesn't let Mark off scot-free from scrutiny.  Mark's values, and those of the mining community, are not so simple that they can make big statements and think that wins the day.  Instead, Mark is criticized for saying equality for all while not letting the women of his group have an equal say in what they do.  In turn, the mining community is praised for its commitment to solidarity and labor but condemned for the way it treats the people who have come out to support them.  Beresford's insight is that the problems of one minority group are the problems of all, and that saying "Equality for all!" is easier than living up to those ideals.  It's those occasional notes of bitter reality that make Pride's mountain of sugar go down so well.

Even if Pride was nothing more than its entertaining bits it would have been a success.  Pride is an ensemble piece in the purest sense with each one of its performers getting one or two scenes to shine.  What struck me most was the collective shyness of the miners with Paddy Considine giving an insecure, then feisty, speech thanking the gay community for their support.  This is echoed in later moments with the wonderful Bill Nighy who is so insecure about himself that he's nervous no matter when he speaks, which make his one moment of fiery passion echo with the frustrations of so many under Thatcher.  Then there's staunch Imelda Staunton, whose harsh pragmatism gives way to delight when she finds some fun toys under the beds of her hosts.

The most nuanced and interesting performances go to Dominic West and Faye Marsay.  West plays an older gay man who seems to be one of those aged catty queen roles at first.  But he's just someone who has to conserve his energy carefully for reasons Pride wisely does not get into too deeply, so that when he does explode into joy during a disco dance-off it becomes one of Pride's best scenes.  Marsay, however, doesn't get anything so splashy to work with but has the most difficult role as an out and proud lesbian who also understands that, for some, attraction for some is a constantly shifting experience.  The way she underplays these discoveries, either from the miners or even from sleeping aspects of herself, go a long way toward underlining the truth about how gender and sexuality are fluid.

For all the subtle bits in Pride, my heart still belongs to Dominic West's energetic dance.

For all the subtle bits in Pride, my heart still belongs to Dominic West's energetic dance.

Warchus directs all this with energy and intelligence.  West's great disco moment could have been all about his amazing dance moves.  Instead, Warchus let's the curiosity of the unfamiliar miners share in the frame many times.  What was once a scene about an older man's return to his glory days becomes something where two groups are learning a bit more about each other.  The more downbeat moments have many subtle touches, like the way the energetic and slightly fidgety camera goes completely still when one of the gay protestors questions why they should help the miners when they beat him every day.

I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't at least a bit worn down by Pride.  The relentlessly upbeat attitude gets a bit tiring after the third or fourth dramatic upswing after a disappointment.  But that bit of exhaustion I felt only goes to show how hard it is to make a feature-length film filled with so much optimism from start to finish.  Pride is the sort of film where our heroes get bricks thrown through their windows and they see it as an opportunity to raise even more awareness for their cause.  Pride's bit of glitter, sunshine, and intelligence is a rare and welcome alternative to the usual spread of dour anti-heroes.

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Tail - PridePride (2014)

Directed by Matthew Warchus.
Screenplay written by Stephen Beresford.
Starring Ben Schnetzer, George MacKay, Faye Marsay, Dominic West, Paddy Considine, Bill Nighy, and Imelda Staunton.

Posted by Andrew

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