Norma Rae

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

She might be small in stature, but Norma Rae (Sally Field) is larger than life when it comes to heart and personality. She is a widow, but has a young daughter to care for and like most of the people in her small town, she works at the Henley Mill. Although a lot of townsfolk have jobs there, the conditions are not good at all and since there is no union, it makes it hard to enact any sort of changes, no matter what kind. Of course, union representatives have tried to get involved, but for some reason, the townspeople have real doubts and of course, the mill owners know what kind of trouble a union could cause them. But when Norma Rae has had enough of working in substandard conditions, she meets with Reuben (Ron Leibman), a dedicated, but smart mouthed union representative from New York. The two decide to work toward improving the mill’s conditions, but it will be a most difficult and dangerous proposition.

I’d seen this one television a couple times, but I was looking forward to seeing it in widescreen, so I gave this disc a spin. I had tried to suffer through the commercials on television, but never managed to see this entire film and as such, I was interested to see the portions I had missed in previous sittings. I have to say, I wish I would have suffered through the breaks, as Norma Rae is a terrific movie and one I am now very pleased to own. The highlight is Sally Field’s excellent and Oscar winning performance, but the rest of the movie is also impressive, from the writing to the supporting cast members. In addition to Field’s outstanding effort, Beau Bridges and Ron Leibman also hand in terrific turns, as well as some others. I also love the production design here, as the costumes, sets, and locations all seem perfect, given the nature of the story and characters. I do admit some flaws do surface and it seems dated at times, but Norma Rae is a solid movie and one that deserves to be seen. I give this film a good recommendation and since Fox issued a nice disc, I think a rental or purchase is within reason.

This movie belongs to Sally Field, who lights up the screen in the title role and gives the performance of her career. Field seems to explode at times with emotion, which befits her character and really brings an impact to this picture. Her exterior is soft and beautiful, but inside, this little lady is fire and brimstone, just as it should be. I think that internal toughness would be very hard to bring across, but Field does so with flying colors and never loses her charm either, very impressive work indeed. As such, it is no wonder she took home the Best Actress Oscar back in 1979, as she deserved the praise and then some. You can also see Field in such films as Forrest Gump, Mrs. Doubtfire, Murphy’s Romance, Smokey and the Bandit, Eye For An Eye, Steel Magnolias, and Where The Heart Is. The cast here also includes Beau Bridges (Jerry Maguire, Swashbuckler), Gail Strickland (The American President, The Man in the Moon), Pat Hingle (Batman Forever, Maximum Overdrive), Barbara Baxley (Sea of Love, Nashville), and Ron Leibman (Slaughterhouse-Five, Night Falls On Manhattan).

Video: How does it look?

Norma Rae is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This image shows some signs of age, but I think Fox has done the best it could, which is still a very good presentation. As is often the case with films from this time, the colors seem a little faded, but this somewhat intentional, so some leeway is granted in that respect. The contrast is more than stable, but not razor sharp, although detail is strong at most times. I also noted some print wear and debris, but I think that’s expected to a certain degree. This one has some flaws, but I think this transfer is good and in the end, it is the best edition of Norma Rae available on home video.

Audio: How does it sound?

The included 2.0 surround track offers a pleasant experience, but of course, this isn’t the movie to choose for dynamic audio presence. The basic effect here is a front channel based effort, but some good surround use is found in some scenes, which enhances the experience. I mean subtle use too, not powerful thumps or impact effects, remember that this is a dialogue driven film for most of the duration. The dialogue comes across well also, never harsh and always in fine form, very solid audio all around here. This disc also includes mono options in English and French, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This disc includes the film’s theatrical trailer, as well as a very informative featurette, Backstory: Norma Rae. This piece was made for American Movie Classics and runs about twenty-two minutes, packed with interviews with various cast & crew members. I found this to be a very well made featurette and as such, I am very pleased Fox took the care to include it here, very cool indeed.

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