The Movie "Norma Rae" Review

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Norma Rae was deemed a groundbreaking film in 1979, and its popularity hasn't waned since. The good performances, along with a few inconsistencies here and there, help to distinguish the film as genuine and distinct from conventional superhero films. This film is about a woman whose bravery allows her to accomplish crucial goals in her life and, as a result, have an effect on others. The growing relationship between African Americans and Southern white workers is also fascinating, and some found it difficult to imagine that the circumstances depicted actually occurred in the United States (Roscoe, 2017). Although the setup is one-sided, it does inspire a sense of social consciousness and wonderful to watch.

As mentioned before, the movie was produced in 1979, and it is categorized in the genre of American Drama. The story unfolds about a certain factory worker by the name Norma Rae who is involved in the establishment of a labour union in her place of work in North Carolina) due to the poor working conditions. Directed by Martin Ritt, the movie is inspired by real-life events experienced by Crystal Lee Sutton, and whose account was written by a New York Times reporter Henry P. Leifermann in his book Crystal Lee, a Woman of Inheritance. Harriet Frank Jr. and Irving Ravetch take the credit for writing the movie while the stars include Sally Field as Norma Rae, Beau Bridges as Rae’s husband and Ron Leibman who played as the union organizer from new York; Reuben Warshowsky. Norma Rae came to win an Oscar for best song, and in the year 2011, it became included in the Library of National Congress. Sally’s performance as Norma Rae Webster also won her the Best Actress Academy Award (Roscoe, 2017).

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A quick overview of the plot reveals that Norma Rae Webster works at a cotton mill and earns a meagre wage. The type of labour and the conditions overwhelm the workers and especially her family members. Norma hears a message during Reuben Warshowsky’s speech concerning unions, and she decides to join in similar efforts to unionize her place of work and improve the conditions. Her decision creates tensions within her family since she spends a lot of time working out the possible unionization process rather than staying at home with her family. Likewise, she is pressured by the management as well. She takes a bold step to inform her fellow workers who eventually stop their machines. Norma Rae is imprisoned, but Reuben makes an effort to free her. She goes on to give her children the story of her life and her husband Sonny assures that he will always be there. Afterward, Norma can facilitate an election that sees the unionization of the factory’s workers. She and Reuben then part ways despite the indications that the New York union enthusiast was smitten in the movie (Ritt, 1979).

This inspiring film connects with the emotions of the viewer’s strongly. The Director clearly elaborates the issue of unions with a sincerity that is not common in the contemporary film industry. The screenwriters focus on the individuals rather than notions and this works in bringing out the deepest feelings and desires of the characters. The participants are well developed, and although simple in outline, the story arouses compassion and joy on the victory of the workers. The movie’s primary appeal is embedded on its ability to display the grit, emotions, and feelings experienced by the characters. Not only are the politics worthy but also the remarkable personalities of the people who are defined by family, work, experiences, and struggles. The film also does well in highlighting the events in a social context whereby the viewer is not moved to patronize the characters. The short scenes are effective in dramatizing the poverty and way of life during that era as well as the challenges faced.

The film Norma Rae is not flawless, and for that matter, some of its aspects seem to appear biased. For instance, there is no attempt to highlight the management’s point of view concerning the working conditions and unionization as well. The film specifically directs the viewer’s energy towards the inconsiderate and somewhat cruel working environment without providing the least of explanations as to why the factories did so. As such, the film tends to be one sided which could be a ploy by the director and screenwriters to make the viewers understand and side with the characters. Overall, the movie focuses on the awakening of social conscience in a manner that can be described best as simple conceit (Roscoe, 2017). A classic example is the platonic affair that takes place between Norma and Reuben is offered more screen time compared to the interesting yet shaky relationship with her husband Sonny who seem to put more effort in the role than what might have been in the script.


All in all, the film is exciting and emotional, and it also does its job well in highlighting the theme of social awareness. However, it also has its shortcomings which some may overlook, but a keen viewer may not miss raising a finger in critique. People can argue that the movie is a propaganda for unions but at the end of the day, the lessons learned are applicable in the society today.

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Ritt, M. (Director). (1979). Norma Rae [Motion Picture].
Roscoe, J. (2017, February 3). Norma Rae. Retrieved from Basement Rejects:

December 15, 2021

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