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2005 | 2004 | 2003

2 items from 2005


North Country

1 November 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

This review was written for the festival screening of "North Country".

TORONTO -- "North County" is an occasionally inspired but much more often didactic story of a woman mineworker, who initiates a class-action sexual harassment lawsuit against a Minnesota mining company. The issue of sexual politics so dominates the story that it's a relief when an emotional showdown involves family rather than workplace issues. Not so surprisingly, these are the movie's best scenes.

Audiences sometimes do respond to issues-oriented movies. When Sally Field held up that strike sign in "Norma Rae", she even won an Oscar. But the issue of sexual harassment in an iron mine may be a tough sell. Whether the movie wins over any hearts and minds, boxoffice may be modest.

"North Country" is the first American film by director Niki Caro, whose "Whale Rider" became New Zealand's most financially successful movie. This is a thoroughly competent and polished work. But one might have hoped she would tackle something a little more artistically daring than Michael Seitzman's predictable fictitious adaptation of of Clara Bingham and Lura Leedy Gansler's "Class Action: The Landmark Case that Changed Sexual Harassment Law." Despite the presence of movie stars such as Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sissy Spacek, the movie feels like an accomplished telefilm.

The world in which the movie takes place is portrayed -- and not without cause -- as one in which men are abusive and women silent victims. This begins right away when Josey Aimes (Theron) escapes a violent husband with her two youngsters. Then she returns to her Northern Minnesota hometown to a glowering father Hank (Richard Jenkins), whom she will never please in a million years. Bars are no escape either as guys make clumsy passes or sneering remarks.

When her old friend Glory (McDormand) suggests she come work with her and a few other women at the mines, Josey immediately seizes the opportunity to bring home enough money to get a house for her and the kids. Glory does warn her about the male miners' rough treatment of women, but she shrugs this off.

Things go from bad to worse. First it's foul language and sex toys in lunch pails. This escalates to sexual come-ons, feces on walls and finally an attack by Bobby Sharp (Jeremy Renner), a guy she used to make out with in school. The only nice guy in sight is Glory's husband, Kyle (Sean Bean). But he's permanently sidelined by a mining accident.

OK, another nice guy does turn up, this being local hockey hero, Bill White (Harrelson). He has returned from New York where, it is implied, the big city and law school have civilized all that North Country redneck behavior. When Josey has finally had enough harassment, it is to Bill she goes to file her lawsuit.

A courtroom scene begins the movie and intermittently Caro and Seitzman cut back to the hearing, making the film one giant flashback. Gradually, the hearing takes over to become the story's focus. Here the corporate boys prove the worst chauvinists of all, playing rougher with Josey than any of her male co-workers would.

But unless you're a lawyer or political activist, the best scenes involve parents and children. Specifically, these concern Josey and her troubled relationship with her dad, and Josey's teenage son, who grows increasingly embarrassed and angry over his mother's notoriety.

Hank, never happy with what he believes are his daughter's loose morals, is humiliated to see her take a job at his very workplace. Meanwhile, the trial causes Josey's son Sammy (Thomas Curtis) to learn the truth about his birth and the identity of his biological father. It devastates him.

These sequences bring out the best in the actors: Spacek as Josey's mom finds the courage to stand up to her husband; Jenkins finds the heart to re-evaluate his daughter; and Theron and Curtis find a ways to communicate.

The movie certainly doesn't look like a telefilm. Chris Menges' camera gives the iron mines a rugged masculinity that fits in nicely the film's political themes. Designer Richard Hoover captures the small company town atmosphere in superb location work and his set designs.

NORTH COUNTRY

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros. presents in association with Participant Productions a Nick Wechsler production

Credits:

Director: Niki Caro

Writer: Michael Seitzman

Based on the book by: Clara Bingham, Laura Leedy Gansler

Producer: Nick Wechsler

Executive producers: Helen Bartlett, Nana Greenwald, Doug Claybourne, Jeff Skoll

Director of photography: Chris Menges

Production designer: Richard Hoover

Costumes: Cindy Evans

Music: Gustavo Santaolalla

Editor: David Coulson

Cast:

Josey: Charlize Theron

Glory: Frances McDormand

Kyle: Sean Bean

Hank: Richard Jenkins

Bobby: Jeremy Renner

Sherry: Michelle Monaghan

Bill White: Woody Harrelson

Alice: Sissy Spacek

Sammy: Thomas Curtis

Running time -- 127 minutes

MPAA rating: R »

Permalink | Report a problem


North Country

14 September 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

TORONTO -- "North County" is an occasionally inspired but much more often didactic story of a woman mineworker, who initiates a class-action sexual harassment lawsuit against a Minnesota mining company. The issue of sexual politics so dominates the story that it's a relief when an emotional showdown involves family rather than workplace issues. Not so surprisingly, these are the movie's best scenes.

Audiences sometimes do respond to issues-oriented movies. When Sally Field held up that strike sign in "Norma Rae", she even won an Oscar. But the issue of sexual harassment in an iron mine may be a tough sell. Whether the movie wins over any hearts and minds, boxoffice may be modest.

"North Country" is the first American film by director Niki Caro, whose "Whale Rider" became New Zealand's most financially successful movie. This is a thoroughly competent and polished work. But one might have hoped she would tackle something a little more artistically daring than Michael Seitzman's predictable fictitious adaptation of of Clara Bingham and Lura Leedy Gansler's "Class Action: The Landmark Case that Changed Sexual Harassment Law." Despite the presence of movie stars such as Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sissy Spacek, the movie feels like an accomplished telefilm

The world in which the movie takes place is portrayed -- and not without cause -- as one in which men are abusive and women silent victims. This begins right away when Josey Aimes (Theron) escapes a violent husband with her two youngsters. Then she returns to her Northern Minnesota hometown to a glowering father Hank (Richard Jenkins), whom she will never please in a million years. Bars are no escape either as guys make clumsy passes or sneering remarks.

When her old friend Glory (McDormand) suggests she come work with her and a few other women at the mines, Josey immediately seizes the opportunity to bring home enough money to get a house for her and the kids. Glory does warn her about the male miners' rough treatment of women, but she shrugs this off.

Things go from bad to worse. First it's foul language and sex toys in lunch pails. This escalates to sexual come-ons, feces on walls and finally an attack by Bobby Sharp (Jeremy Renner), a guy she used to make out with in school. The only nice guy in sight is Glory's husband, Kyle (Sean Bean). But he's permanently sidelined by a mining accident.

OK, another nice guy does turn up, this being local hockey hero, Bill White (Harrelson). He has returned from New York where, it is implied, the big city and law school have civilized all that North Country redneck behavior. When Josey has finally had enough harassment, it is to Bill she goes to file her lawsuit.

A courtroom scene begins the movie and intermittently Caro and Seitzman cut back to the hearing, making the film one giant flashback. Gradually, the hearing takes over to become the story's focus. Here the corporate boys prove the worst chauvinists of all, playing rougher with Josey than any of her male co-workers would.

But unless you're a lawyer or political activist, the best scenes involve parents and children. Specifically, these concern Josey and her troubled relationship with her dad, and Josey's teenage son, who grows increasingly embarrassed and angry over his mother's notoriety.

Hank, never happy with what he believes are his daughter's loose morals, is humiliated to see her take a job at his very workplace. Meanwhile, the trial causes Josey's son Sammy (Thomas Curtis) to learn the truth about his birth and the identity of his biological father. It devastates him.

These sequences bring out the best in the actors: Spacek as Josey's mom finds the courage to stand up to her husband; Jenkins finds the heart to re-evaluate his daughter; and Theron and Curtis find a ways to communicate.

The movie certainly doesn't look like a telefilm. Chris Menges' camera gives the iron mines a rugged masculinity that fits in nicely the film's political themes. Designer Richard Hoover captures the small company town atmosphere in superb location work and his set designs.

NORTH COUNTRY

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros. presents in association with Participant Productions a Nick Wechsler production

Credits:

Director: Niki Caro

Writer: Michael Seitzman

Based on the book by: Clara Bingham, Laura Leedy Gansler

Producer: Nick Wechsler

Executive producers: Helen Bartlett, Nana Greenwald, Doug Claybourne, Jeff Skoll

Director of photography: Chris Menges

Production designer: Richard Hoover

Costumes: Cindy Evans

Music: Gustavo Santaolalla

Editor: David Coulson

Cast:

Josey: Charlize Theron

Glory: Frances McDormand

Kyle: Sean Bean

Hank: Richard Jenkins

Bobby: Jeremy Renner

Sherry: Michelle Monaghan

Bill White: Woody Harrelson

Alice: Sissy Spacek

Sammy: Thomas Curtis

Running time -- 127 minutes

MPAA rating: R »

Permalink | Report a problem


2005 | 2004 | 2003

2 items from 2005


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