Norma Rae Parent Guide
Finding one's voice can make a difference.
Parent Movie Review
The ladies lead out when a textile mill is finally brought to a stop in the pro-union movie Norma Rae. Released in 1979, the film garnered a Best Actress Oscar for Sally Field, who plays the title character, as well as a nomination for Best Picture.
Norma Rae has a reputation in the small Southern community where she works in the factory by day and spends many of her evenings keeping the men in town happy. She sees herself as a “no one” with nothing to look forward to but more days in the stifling heat of the noisy, dirty factory.
Then a fast-talking, New York union organizer named Reuben Warshowsky (Ron Liebmana) shows up in town. He is hell-bent on pressuring the locals into forming a labor alliance. Unfortunately unions are about as popular in this rural village as Communists are.
Not to be deterred, he begins handing out flyers with a call for action. Still, most of the workers and mill owners are suspicious of Reuben and his big city ideals. Many are worried about putting their jobs on the line in favor of change. Norma Rae however is inspired by his rousing speech in a local hall. She has seen what the grueling labor has done to her parents (Pat Hingle, Barbara Baxley) and friends. She finally agrees to work along side Rueben to convince people to vote for a union.
Inevitably, her endless hours in Rueben’s office/hotel room impacts her family life. Neglecting her new husband Sonny (Beau Bridges) and their children, her cause puts pressure on their relationship especially as she begins to experience feelings for Rueben. And although Norma Rae’s efforts to unionize turn many of her friends and coworkers against her, she begins to see herself as someone with a voice.
Whether or not you are a supporter of unions, this film, based on the true life of Crystal Lee Sutton, is an inspiring story of standing up against the odds. Unfortunately the film has frequent crude sexual dialogue and implied depictions of sexual activity that may be disappointing for family viewers. The script also contains frequent mild and moderate profanities and some scenes of drinking that lead to inebriation.
While the crux of the plot is the formation of a union, it is the people that move the story along. None of them are perfect. Yet the characters are much more than the poor, uneducated factory workers they appear to be. Their lives are shaped by a lack of opportunity and vision that keeps them mired in a barely sustainable lifestyle. Only as Norma Rae catches a glimpse of what could be does she become a type of Moses that leads her people to freedom.Directed by Martin Ritt. Starring Sally Field, Beau Bridges, Ron Leibman. Running time: 114 minutes. Theatrical release March 2, 1979. Updated September 3, 2015
Rating & Content Info
Why is Norma Rae rated PG? Norma Rae is rated PG by the MPAA
Violence: A man slaps a woman in the face. Racial comments result in a fight at the workplace. A man is injured when a violent struggle breaks out while men try to put him in a police car. A security guard tries to remove a woman from the workplace. A man talks about characters that are shot or blown up for their involvement in the union.
Sexual Content: A woman meets a married man at a hotel for weekly tryst. She takes off her shirt (she is later seen putting her bra back on). A man makes frank comments about sexual climaxes. A woman talks about her past liaisons with several men. A woman says she can’t say no to men. A man talks about sleeping with woman and his boyhood affair with his piano teacher. A man’s bare buttocks are seen while skinny-dipping. A woman begins to undress to join him. Crude anatomical comments are made. A woman talks about getting pregnant—she is later accused of making a porn movie and having loose morals. A husband complains about having to go without sexual relations with his wife. The script contains frequent crude sexual dialogue. A man says he going to look for some action.
Language: The script contains frequent mild and moderate profanities, racial slurs, crude anatomical terms and sexual language.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Characters drink and smoke on several occasions. One man and woman become drunk and are driven home by a friend.
Page last updated September 3, 2015
Norma Rae Parents' Guide
How did Norma Rae’s view of the world and her own abilities change when she began to stand up for her rights? What tactics did the mill executives take to discourage people from forming a union? What strategies do others use to keep people in a subordinate role? Who was Norma Rae a hero to?
How did Norma Rae’s vision of the world differ from Rueben’s? How did his love of books broaden his view? How did Norma Rae’s lack of education impact her chances for success? Is a university degree the only way to broaden your education?
How did Norma Rae’s willingness to stand up for the rights of workers affect the other employees in the factory? How can one person make positive changes for many people? Is there a time when you stood up for something important?
The most recent home video release of Norma Rae movie is April 1, 2014. Here are some details…Home Video Notes: Norma Rae
Release Date: 1 April 2014
Norma Rae releases in a 35th Anniversary Edition, available on Blu-ray or DVD. There are no special features include with either format.
Related home video titles:
Sally Field also won an Oscar for her role as Edna Spalding in the movie Places in the Heart. She was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Award for her depiction of Mary Todd Lincoln in the 2012 movie Lincoln. Beau Bridges appeared in the 2011 film The Descendants andthe 2006 live-action film Charlotte’s Web.