Pride (CBS Films, R)

pride sqPride has a big cast, but relative newcomer Schnetzer really stands out as the main character, and we witness most of the action through the eyes of 20-year old political convert (and still closeted gay) Joe.

 

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Apart from the glowing reviews it contains, the trailer for Matthew Warchus’ film Pride is pretty off-putting—it makes it look really forced and unnaturally crowd-pleasing, which is a problem most films like this suffer; it’s based on a true story of gay revolutionaries and striking miners forming a bond to fight cultural oppression circa 1984 in Great Britain. And while it’s true that the film is not only predictable, but actually predictable down to the fate of nearly every single character, in the end it is happily a lot more organic and earned than the dopey trailer would have you believe.

To get more specific about that plot, the young Londonite gay rights leader Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer) rallies about half a dozen of his usual friends in protest to gather money for the miner’s strike, on the logic that the police were oppressing them and they needed help, which was a feeling our queer heroes were all too familiar with. But after gathering a small but useful amount of money, they found that no miners union wanted to accept money earned for them by out gays, and after some trial and error, our heroes find a union in Wales who will accept it. This leads to the union leaders, the miners, and the money-gatherers (who christen themselves LGSM, “Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners,” which in practice sounds more like some combination of LGBT and BDSM) all meeting and getting used to one another, which some do with open arms, and others, well, quite the opposite (closed legs?).

One interesting aspect of the film is that there are recognizable people in the cast—Imelda Staunton (the Harry Potter movies, Vera Drake), Dominic West (McNulty from HBO’s The Wire), Paddy Considine (The Bourne Ultimatum, The World’s End), among others—but they’re mostly relegated to more supporting roles. Pride has a big cast, but relative newcomer Schnetzer (who some may recognize from last year’s The Book Thief, but that’s about it) really stands out as the main character, and we witness most of the action through the eyes of 20-year old political convert (and still closeted gay) Joe (George MacKay, who hasn’t been in much that has made it to America).

Not that Pride isn’t without its problems—for example, I never felt like I had a strong grasp on what exactly the miners were striking for—but it does a lot of things well that you don’t see that often. Most notable is that it has a strong, believable message of coming together, as opposed to fighting, which is surprising when you consider that the heroes of the film are essentially full-time protesters. And it’s hard to get the tone of political films correct without becoming overly preachy, which Pride pulls off with remarkable success. Beyond that, it’s worth noting that England in the past few years has knocked out a handful of significant gay-themed films (in addition to Pride, most notable is Andrew Haigh’s 2011 film Weekend), while America, who has the much bigger film industry, has been lagging behind. So we can chalk that up to another lesson that Pride successfully teaches, I guess. | Pete Timmermann

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