Norma Rae Reviews
I didn't feel that Norma Rae was all that it could have been, because the h
general atmosphere never felt like it supported Norma Rae's actions and if anything I felt like it was trying to make out that Reuben Warshowsky was the hero and that Norma Rae was really his protege.
The problem I felt with Norma Rae was that director Martin Ritt relied too much on Sally Field to hold her own in the story, and despite the fact that she did a great job, the provided atmosphere just didn't seem to make Norma Rae's dynamics have an effect on the audience. For example, the scene where Norma Rae stands up and shows a sign with the word "UNION" written on it, the entire situation seemed only enhanced by the look on passion in Sally Field's eyes while the sign showed to all the people in the room and inspired them. Although it was realistic it just lacked motivation and a reason why I as a viewer would get the feel that was intended, especially since in the next scene she gets dragged away and we receive no confirmation as to the lasting effect due to little influence on the story thanks to Martin Ritt's direction or the editing. If maybe there had of been a little music in the situation I would have grasped the feel more significantly, but I didn't and I just witnessed a blank sight of people turning of machines as if to just stare at Norma Rae. The feel just wasn't in the right place for me, and it's a shame because I felt the whole story was leading to that moment.
That was the primary issue, as well as the fact that so many sub plot dynamics deviated from the primary story and became merely stretched over a period of 110 minutes, and so I felt Norma Rae was simplistic and slow.
Aside from all of that, Sally Field gave a great performance. It wasn't mesmerising to me as it would have been for audiences in 1979, primarily because I know what she can do as I've seen her second Oscar-Winning performance in Places in the Heart, and so she didn't have to break free from the shackles of sitcom stardom. But here, Sally Field portrays such a strong character who's dressed in the simplest of clothing and therefore could not be more human. Her strength never becomes ridiculous and relies more on her emotional traits to do the job, and so Sally Field's performance is just perfect and is the bare redemption of the film, because despite how I found various clunks In the structure and dynamics of Norma Rae, there was never any doubt in Sally Field's performance and so she almost held Norm Rae together perfectly. Sally Field was just perfect for the part and brought a great balance of sweetness and integrity to the role, and there was enough of it in her voice and smile alone and then her performance was just the cream filling in the somewhat dry cake that was Norma Rae.
So many people may have felt the inspiring motif of the story in Norma Rae, and although i wasn't really one of them I did largely enjoy Sally Field's performance.
Really, Sally Field's wholesome image made her better at this role than your Jane Fonda or your Faye Dunaway might have been. I don't, as we've established, much like Jane Fonda, but it isn't for the same reason quite a lot of people disliked her in 1979. I don't want to discuss her Vietnam War protesting days here, not least because I don't want to have to clear up a bunch of urban legends about her, but the fact remains that she [i]had[/i] protested the Vietnam War. When she made [i]The China Syndrome[/i] that same year, that was believable. In 1979, people expected Jane Fonda to raise a ruckus. I like Faye Dunaway quite a lot, but her screen image in 1979 was one of a woman who was mostly interested in doing what was best for her. It was hard to believe that she would give up everything for a union. But Sally Field? You just can't distrust a union run by Sally Field, no matter what your usual feelings toward unions are. I mean, she was the flying nun!
Here, she is a small-town mill worker. Norma Rae has not lived the most wholesome life. She has two children by different fathers, and one of the fathers was married to someone else at the time of conception. She has another married boyfriend. She works for J. P. Stevens, a non-unionized mill. Her mother experiences temporary deafness one day, and that is when we learn that Norma Rae is known for having a big mouth--wanting breaks and ear plugs and a feminine hygiene product dispenser. They promote her to shut her up, but she can't take it and takes the demotion to keep her friends. She is perfectly suited to listen to union organizer Reuben Warshowsky (Ron Leibman) when she comes to town. She is trying to have a normal life with her new husband, Sonny Webster (Beau Bridges), but she is changing into a die-hard union organizer. And for all that, she isn't having an affair with Reuben, though everyone--including Sonny--kind of assumes she is.
I am not inclined to trust corporations to have the best interests of their employees in mind. I think the government and unions work together to keep abuses in check. I've never been a union member myself, but I've never worked in an industry which had them. The service industry isn't strongly unionized. A lot of Americans disagree with me about my feelings, though, and everyone knew that an American movie about a union organizer has an uphill battle to get acceptance in a lot of circles. (There's a certain irony to Field's Oscar win for this, given the Oscars were created in a futile attempt to keep the movie industry from unionizing.) And of course, Americans are led enough by their media that support of unions went up after the release of this film, though of course it's long since gone back down again. This movie, I think, serves to remind people that unions have done good things over the years. The abuses we see at the plant were common and are not in unionized plants. And, yes, management tried to turn blacks and whites against one another.
The "real Norma Rae," Crystal Lee Sutton, wanted her story to be, if anything, a documentary. She didn't want a Big Hollywood Movie. She was especially annoyed that the 55-year-old West Virginia coal miner was turned into a New York garment worker in the movie; the implication as she saw it, and she's not entirely wrong, was that the backward country folk needed a Big City Hero to organize their hick town. Though it is worth noting that the outside organizer doesn't understand their ways and needs a woman of the people to help him make a dent; the first union meeting in the movie has barely a dozen people. However, it's also true that Americans don't watch documentaries often, much less change their opinions because of them. If Crystal Lee wanted to have an impact, she needed to reach a big audience. It is a sad truth that you have to do that through fiction. And indeed, a second movie about her life--and death, and fight with her insurance company--would have more influence that anything Michael Moore would say about her.
Norma Rae is not a perfect woman. She isn't the plucky, wholesome woman looking to find herself that the movie's poster promises, either. She's a woman beaten down by life in a lot of ways. She's slept around, and not all of the men she's slept with have been worth her time. She lives with her parents. She works in a job where she has a choice of dead end or stuck between management and the people. Yeah, probably at least part of the reason she starts organizing is sexual attraction to Reuben, though she never does act on it beyond a little harmless skinny-dipping. However, if we are waiting for perfect heroes, especially outside fiction, we're going to have a long wait. America was willing to forgive Norma Rae, because she was Gidget and the flying nun and otherwise a symbol of wholesome American innocence. But Norma Rae wasn't all that wholesome, and she certainly wasn't innocent. And that's the only reason she was able to get anything accomplished.
This film is in no way a documentary(lightly based on a true event), but the filming style and plot line lend to using its emotions to guide its way. Sally Field's acting in this movie is impeccable. Beau Bridges is also great as Sonny. The script is incredible. Martin Ritt did an excellent job directing the movie. I highly recommend this film, its impossible not to Love Sally Fields.