With only a couple days of the year remaining, I have decided to catch up on some of the movies I missed earlier. I could be reviewing St. Vincent right now, but Bill Murray and his little neighbour friend will have to wait.
Pride has been nominated for Best Motion Picture – Musical Or Comedy at next year’s Golden Globes, which begs the question: Is it a musical or a comedy? Hollywood Foreign Press, it’s neither. When the cast unites to sing “Solidarity forever!” to the tune of “The Battle Hymn Of The Republic”, it’s not a musical. When Dominic West is first seen prancing in the street looking like he just got off Priscilla, it’s funny, yes, but I don’t think the path his character takes later makes him comedic.
What is Pride then? It’s good cheer, good will, clean-hearted, sometimes mean. It tells the somewhat true story of how an up-and-coming gay and lesbian civil rights group lent their support to striking miners all over Britain at a time when a political assassination looked ever more promising, and homosexuals were treated as the children of Satan (this is not hyperbole).
The 1980s. Britain. Margaret Thatcher. New policies. Economic cutbacks. Lower subsidies. Angry workers. When workers get angry, they stop working. When miners stop mining, power stops powering. It’s fitting then that the ones who took charge were the gays, who spent less time crouched in front of their televisions and more time organising clandestine societies.
We meet Joe Copper (George MacKay), one of the movie’s fictional characters, designed, I suppose, to guide the audience through the tumult of suppressed teenage homosexuality. There’s Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer), a young gung-ho gay man who really lived, and died of AIDS when he was just 26. He was gifted with incredible foresight and humanity, and had the boldness to spark a change in the people during a time when the people wanted change but didn’t know how to get it.
Here, Schnetzer empowers Mark with likability. There’s something in his smile, in his pursed lips. He looks and acts like a leader faced with heavy opposition on multiple fronts, and if a leader can tackle multiple fronts successfully, like FDR did, others will follow in loyalty.
Mark assembles a crew of fellow gays and one lesbian (including the Dominic West character), calling themselves Lesbians And Gays Support The Miners. Most of their early efforts require them to stand outside their bookstore (headquarters) with buckets and stickers, calling out to passers-by who seem to retain a lot of spittle and phlegm and are always eager to expectorate.
Nothing’s doing. They decide on a ballsy move: They will ring up a mining company directly and offer to lend their support. This move for the 1980s, mind you, is like the Jehovah’s Witnesses calling Al Qaeda and offering to sell them some Bibles. They reach the small Welsh mining town of Onllwyn, who sends Dai Donovan (Paddy Considine) as a representative and is immediately enchanted. Dai sets up a meeting with the folks back home. LGSM reciprocates by allowing Dai to express his gratitude at a gay club, at which he delivers a speech that goes off way better than expected.
LGSM arrives at Onllwyn. We meet the mining company’s board members, comprised almost entirely of aged men and women whose very life essences appear to have been born out of the experiences of their village’s soil. We know their places in the plot, what services they must undertake before the movie can end, but here is where I think Pride slips back a few steps and relies faithfully on cardboard characters and predictable revelations.
Would I be spoiling anything if I said at least one board member would sooner spit at Mark Ashton’s feet than shake his hand? Or if at least one of them has been gay his or her whole life and only now, in the face of sexual liberation, finds the courage to confess it? If I would, you haven’t seen enough Queer movies.
For my taste, there are too many subplots, central figures and personal issues that require delicate handling. Do you, for example, really care about Gethin, the welsh fellow with mommy issues? It becomes a chore when the audience has to decide, somewhat unwillingly, which of two heroes they are meant to relate to. I liked Mark. He’s profoundly interesting. I would have done away with the Joe character, who is dull and never existed in the first place, and made Mark our beacon.
Pride seeks to retell a story of triumph in the face of perilous adversity (if the British government could have culled the gays, it would have), but is more to the point of friendship in the face of hatred. LGSM and the Onllwyn union became comrades. The haters in the village had to suck it up and put on a happy face. That is history. We now live in a world where homosexuality is tasting love instead of fear, which is all well and good, but worker unions everywhere are still striking. One step at a time, I guess.
Best Moment | Can’t think of one.
Worst Moment | The overly sentimental, though required, finale, which sees the arrival of a convoy of buses carrying enthusiastic Welsh miners. Could have been handled better.