Not too many movies make you really feel like you’re sweating. Or really crying. Norma Rae (1979, rated PG, 114 minutes) is one of the good ones. It’s hot and dirty work putting a union into a textile mill in North Carolina in the 1970s.
Sally Field was 33 years old when she played the “Go union!” gal in Norma Rae, and she puts all her photogenic energy into the role. She won the Oscar for Best Actress.
Ron Leibman is Reuben Warshowsky, the New York union guy who leads the way to sweating out the vote right down to the inevitable victory, and falls for Norma in a completely gentlemanly way.
But Norma and Reuben lose the big prize: in their last minutes together, in a remarkably well-scripted exchange of halting words and gushing emotion, neither of these big talkers has the courage to say what is so obviously in their hearts.