NORMA RAE (1979)


Directed By: Martin Ritt
Written By: Irving Ravetch & Harriet Frank Jr.
Cinematography By: John A. Alonzo
Editor: Sidney Levin 

Cast: Sally Field, Ron Liebman, Beau Bridges, Pat Hingle, Barbara Baxley, Gail Strickland, Noble Willingham, Bob Minor, Grace Zabriskie, Frank McRae, 

Like a lot of her family before her, Norma Rae works at the local textile mill, where the pay is hardly commensurate with the long hours and lousy working conditions. But after hearing a rousing speech by labor activist Reuben, Norma is inspired to rally her fellow workers behind the cause of unionism. Her decision rankles her family, especially her fiancé, Sonny, and provokes no shortage of contempt from her employers.

There are many reasons to see this movie. The direction is on point the supporting cast is lively and recognizable, but the main one is to watch Sally Field in The role that won her an oscar. Which is interesting as Marsha Mason, Jane Fonda, Faye Dunaway, and Jill Clayburgh all passed on the title role. And Shirley MacClaine wanted the role

They don’t make films like these anymore though you know events like this happened. People cared and got more up in arms about the situation. Though now we seem more cynical toward issues and believe that is what is expected. We show concern and anger but only when there is a human face upon it to help inspire the struggle it when the I justice breaks down to over the top cruelty.

The film has a strong lead performance by Sally Field that is the main strength of the film. As the film already has the sheen of a feel good story and an iconic classic movie moment. That you wait to see and fits perfectly once it does arrive and you will know it when you see it.

She always manages to come along with a movie and performance out of nowhere that will remind you why you like her as an actress and usually in different roles that allow her to show her range.

The film is a heroic tale set in small town in the south. Where we know what is going to happen. It feels fresh, distinct and idealistic by today’s standards. Giving it a touch of ring out of place but a good throwback to a simpler time even though it seems more simple and not as advanced.

The film has sally field as a woman who it would seem to some might be viewed as promiscuous. Who is called names and judged already in the town. We watch her grow strength throughout. That seems to transform all of her weakness into strengths and liberties that become a belief system. As she refuses to be trapped by and settle into a label.

She wants herself and her co-workers to be treated with respect. Despite color, wealth, age or sex.

Sally Field shines bright throughout and you can’t take your eyes off of her. It is what is referred to as a star making and shows that sally field deserves to be among those actresses of a certain age who are celebrated and considered legends. She never seemed to get her own fair shake even though. She is usually strong in her performances. Just look at her in this years HELLO MY NAME IS DORIS.

It might be because of the films she took later that were considered more popular and lightweight rather then strong, but she is always good and in this film especially she is uncannily sexy. Even if the film seems to go out of items way to not only dirty her up and call her sloppy, but overdoes it on the cliche of how hot the south is by having every character constantly sweating and their clothes having sweet stains all the time. She hasn’t been this sexy to me. Only in the SMOKEY & THE BANDIT movies. Where her character was just as much a firecracker with a mind of her own.

Her character seems to become stronger and more independent after being abused as she seems to realize that all of her life she has been controlled and used by people men in particular and now it is time for her to seek her by independence and be in control of her own life. By also helping others to get their basic human right and be treated fairly.

It is through the introduction and being saved in sorts by a man. Though that is the heart of the film that even though she is attracted to the man and him her. They not only have a mutual respect, but also will she fall into temptation which is easy or stay true to her husband who loves her but isn’t so dazzling or smart as her. As throughout the film we wonder and kind of wish for her to mess around. We know it would end badly and in it’s own way be a betrayal of the character and situations that have been built up so far.

It’s a film alive with detail and also has a form of seduction as she gets depper into defending the union. We alos begin to wonder if it is an enlightenment asmuch as itis her obvious lust and attraction to the character played by Ron Liebman who saves and introduces her into the union. as he is obviously attractedto her and has the swagger of a drifter. Asshe knows eventually he must leave, but he is intellectual, jewish and differentthan most men she has encountered. Though it’s interesting as the film also has her being in a seperate relationship and romance. That rivals her lust, while having quite a reputation and familiarity with quite a few men in town.

This is an empowering film with a female performance that seems to come along so rarely In Films and is truly noteworthy. Even if the poster for the film more looks Like one for a comedy. Though it spotlights what the audience will gravitate to and remember.

Another performance that is strong and not to be missed isn’t beau bridges who at this point in watching him in younger performances am getting used to playing good old country boys who usually have a good heart. No here Ron Lieberman comes off as strong, funny and in a 1970’s way leading man sexy.

One of the things that is enjoyable in watching older classic cinema is not only seeing how cliches were first started and watching an earlier generation of filmmakers who were more out through and became the system. Is also enjoying the types of films. You wouldn’t see much of today that take their time and can be mature without being too dirty. Films That were once thought controversial are seen as tame by today’s standards but still remain just as powerful. Because of the quality all around but mostly the talent and caliber of the filmmaking. It’s a shame that these films aren’t as celebrated as they once were. They are Know to a certain degree, but seek to serve as examples of outdated movies that are considered Oscar bait. Beautifully filmed, with a strong central performance that centers the film. As well as strong writing that takes place around a social issue.

You also get the pleasure of seeing plenty of celebrated and recognizable character actors in early roles. Making the films seem that. Seem more rich because of the future talent on display even in small roles. Plus getting to see them younger is always a trip.

The direction by Martin Ritt is strong that places you in the conditions and type of lifestyle of the town and factory. Which doesn’t offer any false hope of enlightenment or escape it even any luxury. This is these characters lives and livelihood. They just want to support their families and do their job.

This was the First of three pictures that actress Sally Field made with director Martin Ritt. The others were BACKROADS and MURPHY’S ROMANCE.

Director Martin Ritt first conceptualized this movie when he saw an article in ‘The New York Times’ by Henry P. Leifermann, author of the book “Crystal Lee, a Woman of Inheritance”. The book was about Crystal Lee Sutton’s quest to form a union at the J.P. Stevens Company textile mill at North Carolina’s Roanoke Rapids.

Crystal Lee Sutton, the unionist who Norma Rae was based on, was not happy with this film, and felt that the picture should have been a docu-drama.

Grade: B

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