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. Written by
The sound of the machines at the mill was problematic during filming because it made the dialogue hard to hear. See more »
When Beau Bridges and Sally Fields characters are on their first date Beau's hair is parted in the middle. When they leave the bar with the union guy Beau's hair is parted on the far right. It never appears that way again. See more »
Under the circumstances, best wishes hardly seem enough. Thanks are in order. Thank you for your companionship, for your stamina, your horse sense, and a hundred and one laughs. I also enjoyed looking at your shining hair and your shining face.
Norma Rae Webster:
Reuben, I think you like me.
Norma Rae Webster:
I was gonna get you a tie clip or some shaving lotion, but I didn't know what you'd like.
Norma, what I've had from you has been sumptuous.
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More than one actress's tour-de-force, an indelible and moving human story
In trying to get the textile mill she and her family work for unionized, Sally Field's Norma Rae Webster also tries to earn self-respect at any cost. She's been leading a dead-end existence: a single mother, still living with her family, sleeping with married men who abuse her. But after being inspired by a union-organizer (Ron Liebman, in an Oscar-worthy supporting performance), Norma Rae is awakened to the possibilities of life, and, what's more, everything that is wrong with the mill that seems to suck the energy and hope from those who stand there day after day trying to earn an honest dollar. There are problems with the picture: Beau Bridges' role as new husband Sonny is treated in a trivial manner (he's supposed to be a voice of reason, but he's too smooth, maybe condescending, and it's an unconvincing character); Oscar-winner Field's fiestiness occasionally feels overdrawn and/or one-note, but in many of the scenes outside the factory she does indeed excel, seeming vibrantly natural and exuberant. Martin Ritt's direction is focused and firmly rooted (he never sugarcoats Norma Rae's character, and sometimes she's not that likable) and the script manages to sidestep preachiness to get its points across entertainingly. The art direction is really the second star of the film: vivid, palpably hot and sweaty, with bits of cotton floating about in the air. The mill in question becomes very familiar to us, as do the people who work there. "Norma Rae" is involved and long, yet it is memorably bittersweet, and with a simple, haunting finish. *** from ****
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