Review: Norma Rae
If you really like Oscar-winner Sally Field, then you’ll really like this 1979 Martin Ritt (“Hud”, “Edge of the City”, “Paris Blues”) film. Really, really like it. Oh, OK, enough with the Oscar jokes already. This is the tale of a real-life poor textile worker and working mother, played by Sally Field (who always excelled at working class-types and mothers, in films like the underrated “Places in the Heart”). She gets involved with a Jewish union organiser (Ron Leibman, in one of his best and quietest performances) and starts to move towards his way of thinking, hoping to make a change for the better in one helluva reluctant, simple-minded working class area.
The film is well-done on just about every level. Beau Bridges is quite good as the good ‘ol boy she marries, and reliable old Pat Hingle is excellent as her protective, old-fashioned father. It’s hardly original in terms of plot (even for its time), but it’s a good, believable, and entertaining film nonetheless. Sally fans are likely to get more out of it than most, though this ain’t “The Flying Nun” or “Gidget”. The film won two Oscars, one for Field and the other for Original Song (a tune sung by Jennifer Warnes), but was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Screenplay, losing out in both categories to the popular “Kramer vs. Kramer”. The screenplay is by the team of Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr. (“Conrack” with Jon Voight and “Hud” with Paul Newman, both directed by Ritt).