Out in Theaters: Matthew Warchus’s Pride is the Most Enjoyable LGBT Film of the Year

While many of us were gaga over Meryl Streep’s performance of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, that film did little to shine a critical light on the real-life Maggie. Her conservative clutches kept much of Great Britain in a state of crisis for years, something that came to a head during the U.K. miners strike of 1984 and 1985. For almost an entire year, hard-working British miners held strong with their union as they went on strike to protest the closing of twenty coal mines—and the doubling of the U.K.’s unemployment rate.

What’s so gay about that, you ask? Keep reading …

Pride tells the uplifting true story of a group of British lesbians and gays who raised money to support the miners and their families during the lengthy strike. Spearheaded by young activist Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer, The Book Thief), the group decided that, since police brutality against LGBT citizens in London had subsided to “go pick on the miners,” it was up to them to support these similarly oppressed people. Thus, Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) was born, and through countless hours of glorified panhandling, a large amount of money was raised for the cause. The irony here is that the miners turn out to be one of the most homophobic groups of all—go figure—and most unions want nothing to do with LGSM, even though they desperately need the money. Picking a town in South Wales at random out of a phone book, the group finally comes to an understanding and gets an appreciative ear in union representative Dai (Paddy Considine, Hot Fuzz) who comes to London to meet LGSM and invites them back to his tiny town of Onllwyn. That’s when the film hits its stride.

“The gays” arrive and are treated with varying degrees of hospitality by the quaint mining town, unsure of what to make of these queer fish out of big-city water. What follows is more than a standard culture clash comedy (watch To Wong Foo for again if you want that.) Characters big and small, including an understated Bill Nighy (Love Actually; not The Science Guy), brash Imelda Staunton (Dolores Umbridge in the “Harry Potter” series), and scene-stealer Menna Trussler as inquisitive Gwen (“Is it true all lesbians are vegetarians?”), grow over the course of the film from a place of tolerance to a place beyond acceptance: appreciation.

Sure the lesbian and gay side is filled with clichéd characters we’ve seen dozens of times: closeted underager living at home (George MacKay, How I Live Now)—CHECK!; vegan lesbian couple with no individual identity (Karina Fernandez, Happy-Go-Lucky and Jessie Cave, Lavender Brown in the “Harry Potter” series)—CHECK!; aging bitter disco queen (Dominic West, 300)—CHECK PLUS!; but the talented cast and director Matthew Warchus (best known for directing Broadway and West End musicals like Matilda) embody them with such humanity that it becomes easy to look past the initial stereotypes and at the characters underneath, all while they deliver enough one-liners and genuine heart to make you simultaneously smile and choke up a bit.

The phrase “based on a true story” usually gives me pause when selecting a film, but Pride is an entertaining and joyous watch about understanding and empathy for a fellow human being, celebrating what brings us together—a message that is still universal thirty years after the real-life events that inspired the film took place. This is the feel-good British movie of the year to make you feel all sorts of warm and fuzzy inside—and no one had to travel to a hotel in India or go the full monty! Pride is not just one of the most enjoyable LGBT films of the year, but one of the most enjoyable films of 2014. Period.

Grade: B+
Now Playing at Ritz Five