It's occasionally formulaic and the ending's known in advance. But
another classic of British underdog drama-comedy is assured with a
typical combination of ebullient acting and homegrown pride for the
episode. This is a film that will travel across the pond with ease,
full of the conviction and style of the 1960s without all the Union
Jack/mini cooper trappings.
The proto-feminism at its heart is neither threateningly radical or tiresomely hippie but strangely genderless. Sally Hawkins' Rita is a pitch perfect lead, the distillation of giggly-girl roles for Mike Leigh and the long-sufferingly-espoused counterweight to the mild hedonism of An Education. It's this that fights through the Full Monty-grade set pieces to really convince the viewer. In this she's joined by the discreetly exquisite Geraldine James and the humour-veiled fire of Bob Hoskins.
Danny Mays, usually a favourite of mine, is adequate in his role as the husband caught between the tectonic plates of cultural change at his doorstep - in the same but opposite way I think the huge presence of Richard Schiff is almost too much in a film where the tonal emphasis is more on pluck than the gravitas of people consciously undertaking to change their world. Miranda Richardson has the balance just right; other important actors (Rupert Graves, Rosamund Pike, Roger Lloyd-Pack and Kenneth Cranham) excel in the same ensemble fashion as Geraldine James. Two hours gone by in a feelgood flash. 7/10
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