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North Country

A movie directed by Niki Caro

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A Retrospective Look at a Landmark Ruling

  • Feb 23, 2006
Rating:
+3
NORTH COUNTRY is a tough movie to watch - and that is why it is so fine and important. The story exudes out of the characters surrounding the first class action suit for sexual harassment in the workplace and it would be difficult to imagine a more dour and gritty depiction of what women iron miners faced in Northern Minnesota than that director Niki Caro (Whale Rider) has molded out of Clara Bingham's book and Michael Seitzman's screenplay. Though overly long (in excess of two hours) the film does successfully drive home its points and its issues.

Josey (Charlize Theron) is an abused wife who after yet another beating form her husband takes her two children back to her hometown in Northern Minnesota where her mother (Sissy Spacek) and disturbing defiant father (Richard Jenkins) still view her as an embarrassment to the family: Josey became pregnant at age 16 and states she 'doesn't know the child's father'. Josey's only concern is to make a living for her children and not be reliant on her parents. She works as a hair washer in a beauty salon until her old friend Glory (Frances McDormand) recognizes her and urges her to apply for work in the iron mines were wages are good despite a disturbing atmosphere. Reluctantly Josey agrees to apply, much to her father's disdain, and she moves her children away from her parents to live with Glory and her adoring husband Kyle (Sean Bean). Once at work Josey encounters the disgusting macho miners who constantly sexually harass the female minors. The situation deteriorates until finally Josey cannot tolerate it and she hires the sweet ex hockey athlete turned lawyer Bill (Woody Harrelson) to take on her case. What proceeds in the trial for the class action suit and a tough trial it is. The fact that the bravery and courage of Josey and her colleagues results in a 'win' is almost a given as the film is based on historical fact.

Charlize Theron once again delivers a fine performance and in part due to the brilliant support of the supporting cast gives us a character to remember. Frances McDormand, Sissy Spacek and Richard Jenkins deliver superb portrayals and the large supporting cast is first rate. For much of the film the viewer gets the feeling that we've been here before (many other films about the mines and the traumas here played are familiar), but the narrative is powerful and in the end sweeps all others aside as a statement that needed desperately to be made. Recommended. Grady Harp, February 06

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More North Country reviews
review by . December 19, 2008
I bought North Country because it was on sale for about $3 and because it's similar in theme to Erin Brockovich in that it chronicles a group of people's struggle to bring a large company to justice.     However, this film just didn't cut it for me. Basically, for 80% of the movie, you follow the main character and her own personal struggles (starting over after a divorce) and a group of female employees' struggle with controlling sexual harassment at work. Yet, unlike Erin Brockovich, …
review by . August 20, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Thinking 'North Country' would not live up to the hype, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself so involved in the thick of a gripping gender drama. Alternating between the witness stand and the reenactment of the recall of the plaintiff, the film focuses on the life of Josie Aimes, (Charlize Theron) with her groundbreaking story of sexual harassment. Living on the iron range of Minnesota, the lifestyle of everyone bears all the elements with true grit. Josie, who finds her ex- unbearable and …
review by . May 17, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Somewhat compelling story      Cons: An issue difficult to care about explained in a haphazard way      The Bottom Line: I recommend the film for people who like issue movies; if you don't, nothing is compelling in this one for you.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie''s plot.      First there was Norma Rae then there was Silkwood. The first movie was about a woman’s …
review by . July 24, 2006
What a curious beast is the homo sapien -- of either gender. And yet at some point in our lives, if we are to be honest, haven't we all ducked behind some wall of safety, even when it means an increase to our own suffering? It is one of the more shadowy sides of human nature. We are hurt, and yet when our peers, equally hurt alongside us, we still side with an enemy rather than confront the unspeakable. History is filled to bursting with such cases.    "North Country," directed …
review by . June 19, 2006
I could say that this movie is good because of cast reasons and there's some things in this movie you can't miss. But being good for cast reasons doesn't make a film good; "North Country" is a regular piece. The only problem with films taken from real life events is that they need to be true to the time and space where those events occurred. Director, Nikki Caro, seems to be more worried about getting tears out of our eyes than about showing us she's directing something that actually happened.   &nbs …
About the reviewer
Grady Harp ()
Ranked #101
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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A sterling cast and vivid direction giveNorth Countryan emotional heft to match its political convictions. Charlize Theron (Monster) plays Josey Aimes, who goes to work at a Minnesota steel mine after splitting with her violent husband.
Frances McDormand and Charlize
Theron in North Country.
But the job proves to be almost as harrowing as her marriage; the male miners, resentful of women taking jobs, verbally abuse and play humiliating pranks on the female miners. After being physically assaulted by a coworker, Josey tries to fight against the harassment, but none of the other women will join her case for fear that things will only get worse.North Country, directed by Niki Caro (Whale Rider), makes the women's experience palpable for the audience without overdoing it. But the lawsuit is only part of the movie; the gut impact ofNorth Countrycomes from the devastating effect the lawsuit has on Josey's family, friends, and coworkers--thanks to an incredible ensemble cast that includes Sissy Spacek (In the Bedroom), Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings), Richard Jenkins (Six Feet Under), Woody Harrelson (The People vs. Larry Flynt), and the always powerful Frances McDormand (Fargo,Mississippi Burning). The courtroom histrionics don't always ring true, but the family conflict is riveting and deeply moving. Based on the bookClass Action: The Story of Lois Jenson and the Landmark Case That Changed Sexual Harassment Law. --Bret Fetzer

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