Gay, Feel-Good True Story 'Pride' Can't Quite Work The Line Between Comedy And Drama
Pride is a feature dramedy that illuminates an unlikely partnership that many Brits probably have forgotten and that many American have never heard of in the first place. Directed by Matthew Warchus (God Of Carnage) with a screenplay by first-time feature writer Stephen Beresford, Pride is based on a true story about the gay community in 1980s England coming to the aid of striking miners and their families.
In a power struggle between unions and Margaret Thatcher's government, the National Union of Mineworkers conducts one of the largest and longest strikes in the country in 1984. The striking miners have become outcasts, and one group that can empathize is the gay and lesbian community. Activists, led by the young and charismatic Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer), rally their friends to organize the new group LGSM (Lesbians & Gays Support Miners) to raise money for the miners' cause. But they can't get the union on the phone to give the money to, so LGSM instead target the contributions to a local South Wales community. The Welsh town has mixed feelings about accepting the contributions, but undeterred, LGSM hops on a bus from London to see their donations through.
Billed as a 'feel good' movie along the lines of The Full Monty and Billy Elliot, Pride can't quite work the line between comedy and drama, falling short on both sides. There are moments that pack an emotional wallop, but these are offset by perfunctory scenes that are reminiscent of other moments in queer films that are added to appeal to the straight audience. We're talking about Dominic West's Jonathan taking over the dance floor at the Welsh miners' hall, showing the women of the town how gay men dance (and of course, one of the miners asks him for lessons to woo the ladies, too). Then there's the group of miners' wives—led by the terrific Imelda Staunton—who are in London for a fundraiser, and they find (and play with) a huge sex toy under their hosts' bed.
Pride does better in exploring the more dramatic aspects of being gay in London in the mid-1980s, from violence set against the LGBTQ community; issues around coming out and family acceptance; and of course, the AIDS epidemic. But there are too many characters with only cursory storylines, so just as the audience starts to get vested in a character, Pride moves onto the next. It does, however, focus a little too much on one of the less interesting characters as he struggles with his sexuality, sacrificing precious screen time with Ashton or Gethin (Andrew Scott), a gay bookstore owner who seems to have the most interesting backstory. As a result of the numerous storylines, there's not much depth in Pride, despite the best efforts of a great acting ensemble to shed light on a nearly forgotten moment in history.
Pride opens this weekend and screens at the Arclight Hollywood and The Landmark.