Bread and Roses

Rated NR

Acclaimed British director Ken Loach, known for his working-class and pro-labor sensibilities, demonstrates his very nimble touch in this poignant drama loosely based on the Studio City custodial worker strikes of 1990. Maya (Pilar Padilla in a strong debut) is a newly arrived illegal alien who gains employ at a corrupt, non-union janitorial service. The boss, Perez (George Lopez), is a reptilian dumbass who does all he can to keep his staff (mostly illegals with very limited employment options) in a perpetual state of fear for their low-paying jobs. Enter Sam (Adrien Brody in a role that recalls Pacino before he became a caricature of himself), a union organizer whose clever tactics, like disrupting a Hollywood party with vacuuming janitors, eventually win over the somewhat mistrustful workers. Bread and Roses is multi-dimensional without overreaching, encompassing family drama, border issues, sexual politics and labor activism. The story is deeply sentimental without being calculatedly so, and it makes Loach's direction all the more impressive when you realize that in lesser hands, the film would come off like a sappy retelling of Norma Rae. Instead, it's a chest-thumping affirmation of the unrealized power of workers that would make Joe Hill himself proud.

Film Credits

Director: Ken Loach

Cast: Pilar Padilla, George Lopez and Adrien Brody

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