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North Country (2005)
Reviewed on 2012 March 31
This is based on the true story of the sexual harassment lawsuit brought against the Eveleth Mines by a group of brave and fed-up women. I can’t fathom why the TV networks tend to give this only two stars. I think it merits three morsels, not only for the story it tells but for the script and acting. It may seem a little cartoony or heavy-handed, until you read about the backstory and learn that a lot of the stuff depicted in the movie actually happened, and usually multiple times. It’s hard to believe this was in the ’80s.
Josie Aimes (Charlize Theron) is a single mom with two children to feed, and a reputation (and that’s a whole other bone of contention) her small, provincial Minnesota town seems intent on surgically attaching to her until she dies. Like many people, she wanted a better life for her offspring, and life seemed to make other plans for her. She wants to earn a good living and buy her own house, and the only gig in town that offers the kind of money that will make that happen is the mine.
Josie and the handful of women who want a shot at a fatter paycheck are happy to prove themselves on the job, but their male co-workers resent their intrusion. The whole well-reasoned and cogent objection the men seem to have is “duhhhhh, dey’re women!” They resent the ladies doing “their” jobs, when all the women want is a roof over their heads and enough cash to give their families a good life. Wanting the same things isn’t enough to convince the men to back off. After things become unbearable, Josie gets a lawyer (Woody Harrelson) to release the legal hounds on the mine. Unfortunately, he warns her that the mine is going to trot out the age-old “nuts & sluts” argument to paint the females as a bunch of crazy harpies or trampy malcontents. Sure enough, the company unleashes its own helmet-haired, pinch-mouthed female lawyer to beat Josie over the head with her past sexual history.
Great movie, but it’s a button-pusher. It’s not a fluffy happy movie nor easy to watch — at times I caught myself wishing Josie would just pull a Carrie on the town, then get out of there — but it is the story of the first class-action sexual harassment lawsuit brought against a business. It’s an important story and in addition to Charlize and Woody, Frances McDormand is wonderful as Josie’s tough-as-nails best friend.