Frustrated. That's how I felt the whole film. Where the hell did these people grow up where they learned to behave this way...especially towards women? Oh yeah, my home state of Minnesota. The film covers the sexual harassment that became such a major problem in the iron mines of northern Minnesota in the 80's. Apparently, the film doesn't really even scratch the surface as to what really went on up there; but trust me, it's bad enough.
Charlize Theron plays Josey Aimes; a single mother who takes a job in the mines (where the money is almost five times what other jobs pay in the area) to support her family. The problem is, the men don't want her there and they make no secret of that fact. They play mean pranks, and I do mean mean: from spreading feces on their clothing to anything short of actual rape. Seemingly, there is nothing that can be done about any of it. Josey tries to go higher up the scale, from her foreman to the CEO down in the big city. No one will help; not even her father who also works in the mine and sees what is going on or the other women being taken advantage of, for fear of losing their jobs or having even worse done to them.
Based loosely on the book entitled "Class Action," it is another case of Hollywood claiming a film to be based on a true story. It's maybe more true than "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" or "Domino," but still fictionalized none-the-less. The actual case took over fifteen years to conclude and I actually know people who had family members involved in the debacle. All of the names have been changed and the story has been played with for dramatic effect.
It is gripping and heart-wrenching at points. The whole town seems to be against Josie as she portrays the under-dog woman fighting against oppression role. The side-story of her and her son is a nice touch as well. There are definite "cheesy" parts and the courtroom scene has more than its fair share of cliche moments. But if you can look past that and just go with the story, it can be inspirational and aggravating (in a good way). This will very likely be the staple of the Lifetime channel for the next year and a half.
Look for Theron to garner another Oscar nod this year almost certainly. The supporting cast is just as good too. Frances Macdormand nails the Minnesota accent ala "Fargo" (but with less farcible gusto) with ease. Other cast members such as Sean Bean, Woody Harrelson and Sissy Spacek all shine to support Theron in her quest for another Academy Award.
I think everyone can enjoy "North Country." Not the greatest movie of the year, but probably the movie of October. For sure worth a trip to your local video store this winter. For those of you who live in MN and know the northern area, it will be a treat to see these small towns on film. You may also notice a few boo-boos in the film's making, but they are for nit-pickers only and don't effect that greatness that this film achieves. I highly recommend "North Country" for a tug on the ol' heart strings and a good dramatic fight.