The term 'based on a true story' has been used to cover a multitude of cinema sins over the years, but this new film does indeed have a solid basis on fact. The only trouble is, it's been so sanitised, sentimentalised and laughed-up, that it feels less like a true story and more like wish fulfilment.
OK, so the true stuff is that in 1984, a group called Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners gathered money to support the striking miners, and in particular for a pit in South Wales. But in an attempt to make the film palatable to as wide an audience as possible – especially in America – it avoids mentioning that the founder and leader of LGSM was a communist, or that the newspaper which used the term "Pits and Perverts" to describe the relationship between the supporters and the miners was The Sun, owned by Rupert Murdoch, who now also owns 20th Century Fox Studios. Tactful or what?
My beef with the film, however, is not a lack of adherence to absolute historical accuracy, so much as the fact that it has an irresistible urge to manipulate the audience on each and every possible occasion. It's the script wot done it -as ever. You couldn't ask more from a cast which includes Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West, Andrew Scott, George Mackay and Paddy Considine, (though the stand out star is the hitherto unknown Ben Schnetzer, who embodies Mark, the hero of the film, with verve and energy).
But you can ask that a film based on people's lives doesn't resort to cheap sentiment, shallow melodrama and cliched characters. There's no question that Pride is an appealing and engaging story, but in its relentless pursuit of uplift and cheap laughs, it manages to lower the bar on what could have been a much better and more interesting film. Comparisons with The Full Monty and Billy Elliot are inevitable, but they simply reveal the strengths of those 2 films which this one lacks. Both have a single central character with whom we identify most strongly. Pride can't bring itself to cast in its lot wholeheartedly with Mark (although it should), possibly because he was gay 9and of course a communist), and keeps running off with other characters. The miners' wives come to London and are 'hilariously' amused by gay clubs and sex toys. A two dimensional Mary Whitehouse figure in Wales issues hollow threats and comes on like a poor man's Cruella de Ville. Bill Nighy does mournfully Welsh. Paddy Considine is being a good egg. Dominic West dances like Travolta (to show the straight men that the best way to a woman's heart is through the moves.
And so on, and so on. It's just one thing after another, and as result it fails to build any real emotional engagement, because we're always being told what to feel, before we move on to the next piece of pantomime. Like the forthcoming The Imitation Game, this is a story that deserves much better treatment than it receives. It's a crowd pleaser, but not much of a film.