Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pride (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


"Pride" is a biopic of a period, specifically 1984 in England, when Margaret Thatcher was unleashing her war against British miners who went on strike.

The film, by theatre director Matthew Warchus (Simpatico), is unapologetically feel-good and hits all notes in a somewhat conventional mode, but with its glib humor and smartness, it is impossible to dislike.

Mark (Ben Schnetzer) is a gay activist in London. His group isn't raising awareness, though they are frequently ridiculed, punched and treated with abuse . One afternoon he hears about the miners' plight and gets an idea: these hard working men are being pushed into the margins with an absent voice just like the GLBT population in Thatcher's England.

Might this be a bond shared between groups, Mark wonders, or a way to make his group recognizable?

Rather than pick a popular mining community and face opposition in London, Mark decides to try Wales, picking a random site on a map. A finger lands on the small town of Onllwyn.

What proceeds is a bit of a road or quest film in the tradition of "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" mixed with a touch of "The Full Monty."

A gang of motley characters ingratiate themselves to the town leaders, use some self-deprecating wit and face struggle and prejudice during the era when AIDS first landed on planet earth, at times causing acute toxicity upon an already virulent homophobia.

There are some arresting subplots, including that of Joe (George MacKay) who finds his own cause under the weight of a constrictive family, a housewife Sian ( Jessica Gunning) who yearns for an exciting cause or a closeted older husband (Bill Nighy).

These three stories blend well in the narrative and are full of tension.

There are also vignettes of light cheerfulness that go the more standard route: the older community leader (Imelda Staunton) who at first is uptight but ends up frolicking and the formerly hateful miner (Kyle Rees) who asks for dancing lessons from the dandy and irreverent actor Jonathan (Dominic West) who makes Tom of Finland Christmas cards. Athough these moments have been told before they are handled easily with pointed humor and are not overwrought.

Where the film succeeds the most however, is in its swift facile movement and its impressionist daubs of pointed color in the capturing of an era. Here dark-eyed kids listen to The Smiths as Margaret Thatcher hovers over red brick row houses like a white gargoyle in fire-orange beehive hair, head-mastering upon every diverse citizen.

Above all the film has the good sense not to bog itself down in a syrupy message. It is a lively and pulsing portrait of a time that has something spontaneous within its episodic surges of whimsy.

Just in one splashy disco scene, "Pride" shows not only some colorful haunt for the 80s, but also that the experience of being accepted on suspicious soil, is a human and universal event.

Write Ian at redtv_2005@yahoo.com

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