Clearing the Smog
Having lived in Convent, St. James Parish, Louisiana all her life Pat Melancon (Laura Innes) has seen the area change as farms made way for processing plants knowing that these industries bring steady work to the community. She's also been aware of illness as people and children have had breathing issues but thought nothing of it, just part of life. That is until her young daughter Catherine (Hallee Hirsh) prevented a car accident when a woman driving her started to struggle to breathe and Pat not only learns that their area has higher levels of toxins in the air but also learns that Shintech, a huge Japanese chemical company, is coming in and spending millions in the process on a giant plant. Realising what this would mean for the area and people's health Pat along with the help of some other locals including activist Emelda West (Ruby Dee) start campaigning against the proposed mega plant.
"Erin Brockovich", "A Civil Action" and I am sure if I dug through the other movie reviews which I have written I would find a few more. What I am on about are movies about small town communities taking on big business when it comes to their practices being behind pollution and ill health. And now I can add "Taking Back Our Town" to the list, a movie which will probably grab some people's attention because it stars Laura Innes and Hallee Hirsh who many will recognize from their days on "ER".
Now "Taking Back Our Town" is based on a true story and focuses on house wife Pat Melancon and Emelda West, a civil rights activist who was a friend of Pat's mum, leading the fight against Shintech, their representatives as well as some locals who have dollar signs in their eyes. The thing is that whilst we have specific aspects of the true story what we also get is plenty of familiar aspects. We see how Pat has to deal with her own husband who isn't happy about her stirring things up, her children who feel neglected, we see the various tricks that Shintech and others get up to in order to put Pat, Emelda and others down and deter them from their campaign. That doesn't take anything away from "Taking Back Our Town" as it is an enlightening and entertaining story but it does mean it has a familiar side.
The key to "Taking Back Our Town" is the casting as Laura Innes is well cast as the house wife who feels the need to do something but doesn't want to fly off and do something which would jeopardize things. And then Ruby Dee brings some bible grasping fire and brimstone to the character of aging activist Emelda West. The contrast but also compassion between these two works so well to keep them interesting and whilst they are surrounded by what are little more than cliche characters they are all played well.
What this all boils down to is that "Taking Back Our Town" is a solid made for TV drama dealing with a true David vs Goliath story but it is some what sadly a familiar one, comparable to the various other David Vs Goliath stories dealing with big businesses polluting an area and causing sickness in the process.