Thursday, September 25, 2014

Matthew Warchus/Stephen Beresford's PRIDE; New GLBM film will set audiences to cheering

What -- you haven't heard of the GLBM movement (and no, it's not of the 'bowel' sort)? GLBM stands for Gays, Lesbians and British Miners, and if there's one movie that folk will remember as best representing the Margaret Thatcher era in Britain, it's likely to be PRIDE, in place of that 2011 bio-pic, The Iron Lady.

The product of screenwriter Stephen Beresford (shown at right), director Matthew Warchus (below, left) and a simply splendid cast of British film and stage royalty plus a handful of fine newcomers, Pride is indeed, as the poster tells us, based on an inspirational true story. But thank god Beresford and Warchus conspired not to inundate us with the triumph of the human spirit, but rather give us incredibly spirited, funny, moving and
absolutely real characters, whom their gifted cast bring to soaring life. It is one after another of these rich and memorable people whom you're likely to remember, for at least as long as you're able to watch and appreciate the kind of movies that say something important -- and say it so vitally well that the message and its messengers become one joyful delight. Pride is the kind of popular masterpiece we rarely experience in cinema.

Where gay and lesbian movies are concerned, I have often claimed that they are far too insular, concentrating on GLBT issues at the expense of reaching out to and addressing the wider world. This ability is exactly what sets Pride apart from the pack -- that, and the filmmmakers' grasp of how important is real and rounded characterization.

Not that Pride slights gay issues: It tackles everything from love and relationships to equality and prejudice, the experience of coming out and, of course, AIDS -- all hot-button subjects back in the 80s (and to a large extent remaining so today).

The movie tells of an incident during the Thatcher reign in which a gay and lesbian group (we hadn't widened at that point to include bisexuals and the transgendered), pushed hard by its leader, Mark (a benchmark performance from young actor, Ben Schnetzer, above right) to start raising funds for the beleaguered miners -- even though, as Ben readily admits, "these are the guys whose kids used to beat us up in school."

The movie is honest about how difficult it was to build gay support for this endeavor, not to mention the further and greater difficulty from the miners themselves, who didn't want to accept contributions from this "outsider" group. What happens and how it changes attitudes and minds becomes the heart of the movie -- and what a big-hearted film this is. (My companion for the evening, one of the more cynical gays I know, went into the screening with a very large chip on his shoulder -- he'd seen the trailer for the film, which is evidently a bit much -- but by the time he emerged from the theater, Pride had won him over completely.)

In the crack cast are leading lights like Bill Nighy (center, right, above), who gives as contained and quiet a performance as I've ever seen from this very talented man; Imelda Staunton (at left, center, dancing), as one of the women in the mining community who initially balks but whose sense of fairness is such that she simply must proceed; Paddy Considine (center, left, two photos above, also surprisingly subdued and all the more moving for it) as the miner's representative; and Dominic West (above, dancing with Ms Staunton) as the older lover of one of the younger gays, whose performance would single-handedly steal the movie were it not such a rich ensemble piece. If Mr West doesn't get an Oscar nod for his galvanizing, moving and wonderfully entertaining work here, there ain't no justice.

The younger (and/or maybe less known) set, in addition to Mr. Schnetzer, includes Jessica Gunning, as the Considine character's joyful wife; George MacKay (above, right) as the youngest gay, having the most trouble with that "closet" situation; Andrew Scott (below, extreme right in the middle row, and yes, the Moriarty of the Cumberbatch Sherlock series!), as the West character's lover. I am leaving out so many other absolutely wonderful performers because time and space won't permit, so I hope they will forgive me. There is not a ringer in the huge cast because the writer and director have seen to it that each character is given enough time, words and care to register strongly. This is a huge achievement.

So is Pride in its entirety. If there comes a better mainstream, feel-good film in which every last laugh, tear and surge of anger and/or joy is absolutely earned, then we are in for one fucking banner year at the movies.

Pride -- from CBS Films and running just under two hours -- opens this Friday, September 26, in New York City (at the AMC Lincoln Square, Regal Union Square, and BowTie Chelsea Cinemas), Los Angeles (The Landmark and the Arclight Hollywood) and in San Francisco at Landmark's Embarcadero. Don't worry: It'll hit your city soon, as well.

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