North Country (2005) Poster

(2005)

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'What are you supposed to do when the ones with all the power are hurting those with none?'
Chrysanthepop9 June 2008
I thought this would be one of those issue-based legal drama movies about sexual harassment where the main character is harassed a couple of times and then she eventually fights back. I was apprehensive about buying it. I mean I wanted to see it but whether it was worth buying was another thing. After checking, I decided to gamble. I bought the DVD and watched it and discovered that 'North Country' is about much more than sexual harassment. As the film progresses towards the end, we are addressed more important themes such as the consequence of rape on the relationship between a mother and child and how her silence is used as a weapon against her. However, while these issues are interestingly dealt with and fit the story they slightly deviate from the main theme of sexual harassment.

Niki Caro does a fine job in directing. Her intentions are sincere. Perhaps the script could have been a little tighter and the courtroom sequences could have been better handled as they are a little too dramatic and unrealistic, especially the judge letting White to argue his case that way. In addition to that, the case became more about Josey's sex life rather than the actual harassment and terrorizing in the workplace. Even though this provides a twist in the story and explains a lot of Josie's situation, it takes away from the main theme. Also most of the male characters have been caricatured. I understand the film is about Josey which may be the reason why these characters weren't given much attention but even Josey's father is portrayed as a misogynist and all of a sudden he is shown to have a change of heart. It would have liked to see this characters inner conflict as he plays a crucial role in Josey's life.

In the technical front, the cinematography is smooth and gives us some spectacular glimpse of the snowy landscape and the coal mines. The sound effect and country-feel soundtrack are quite good too.

Charlize Theron deserves all the recognition she got for giving a strong, confidant and heartfelt performance as the brave hard-working and headstrong Josey Aimes. She breathes fire into her role and, along with Frances McDormand, she's the heart of the film. McDormand performs naturally and her tragic character provides some great comic relief. She has some witty one-liners that bring a smile. While most of the guys are portrayed as nasty sleazy men, Sean Bean's Kyle is the complete opposite. Nonetheless, the actor does a fine job (quite a deviation from what the type of roles he's more famous for). Harrelson's Bill White suffers from poor characterization. His character is a bit too sketchy. Harrelson tries the best with what he's got and turns in a decent enough performance. Richard Jenkins too suffers from poor writing. Sissy Spacek has a tiny role but she has a subtle dignified presence and her character contributes to one of the major turning points of the story. Rusty Schwimmer and Michelle Monaghan are adequate.

'North Country' isn't an easy film to watch because of the explicit scenes of sexual harassment and the haunting rape scene but it is a relevant film. Not only is it about women's rights, it's about everyone's right to live a life with dignity, to work with dignity. It's about standing up against injustice rather than turning a blind eye. It's about protecting your loved ones and fighting for what you believed in. Though 'North Country' isn't without its share of flaws (it is a little preachy and sometimes too dramatic), it brings forth some important themes well enough and with the support of good direction and strong performances, it's worth watching.
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6/10
An important issue dumbed and numbed
bm31711 June 2006
I hate to give North Country a relatively low vote because this is such an important issue, and I appreciate the good intentions of director Niki Caro, and the A-list actors who no doubt took a big pay cut when agreeing to take a role.

On the other hand, I feel disappointed, a little angry, as well as insulted as a woman that this hugely important story was made into a melodrama that flattens out what really happened, and somehow manages to diminish the political nature of sexual harassment, even while seeming to highlight it.

At least 90 percent of the problem had to do with Michael Seitzman's script.

In the interview with Seitzman on the DVD, he makes clear that he didn't think the sexual harassment story was the real story. The real story, he said, was the traumatic experience Josie had in high school, and her relationship with her son.

Therefore he should have written a script for Lifetime focusing on what he felt was the "real story". He should not have used one of the most important cases for sexual harassment in legal history as the vehicle for telling this other story.

The producers should have demanded a script that more closely resembled Susannah Grant's Erin Brockovich. The sequence of victimization after victimization depicted in North Country didn't let us get to know Josie's character in any depth. We saw her slammed against the wall again and again, from beginning to end. We see that she stands up against the oppression, but we aren't taken into her sensibility, her choices, her process, her blind spots, character change, etc, etc, like in EB. Likewise, the lack of complexity in the male "macho" characters also flattens the story, and takes away from the real difficulties in challenging sexism and sexual harassment. In real life, character complexity of those who oppress or who defend oppressors is part of what makes the problem of sexual harassment difficult to fight.

I read an interview with Niki Caro, and though I think she's a very talented director, I got the sense that she didn't really get the politics or history behind sexual harassment. It seems things aren't as bad in New Zealand as they are here in the U.S. This is a foreign culture to her, and Northern Minnesota is certainly a foreign culture. I wish she would have spent more time fully understanding the issues and cultural dynamics (including the accent and mannerisms of the area, etc, which were sprinkled into the movie, but not rigorously replicated) before undertaking the project. If she had gone the extra mile to immerse herself in the issue and the region, perhaps she would have demanded a total rewrite of the script.
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6/10
I hate you Hollywood!
CIMC27 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Through four-fifths of North Country, the audience receives a rare treat. It's a film that deals with a serious issue, sexual harassment, in a serious way. It is a compelling drama that is well shot, directed and acted. It is nothing short of tragic then, that the last fifth of the film is some of the worst put to screen this year. Screenwriter Michael Seitzman is no stranger to vastly overblown, yet flat, melodrama. One can see his Here on Earth for a sample of how ridiculous his conception of human interaction is. Yet how is it that most of the film is not only watchable, but truly exceptional, when the ending was so terrible? The answer probably has more than a little to do with director Niki Caro. In 2002's Whale Rider Caro guided another spectacular story about a woman who challenges the gender roles of her community. It was a beautiful and engaging tale and North Country starts out the same way.

Presenting a fictional account of the nonfiction book Class Action: The Story of Lois Jensen and the Landmark Case that Changed Sexual Harassment Law, North Country begins on the stand with Josey Aimes (Charlize Theron) being grilled about her sex life. The film then goes back to Aimes' hiring at the mine and the problems she and the other female workers faced there. The harassment was pervasive. It wasn't just catcalls and sexist utterances, though it was those. It was in many cases more or less sexual assault. When Josey felt able to complain about it, she could do so in the Human Resources office, with a pinup calendar staring back at her. It was the type of openly hostile workplace that really makes you wonder, as Josey's dad (Richard Jenkins) does, how is it that so many men can behave so badly? They wouldn't act towards women the same way at a company picnic so why do they do it at work?

Josey's struggle is not made easier by most of her female coworkers. They need the high- paying mine jobs as much as she does and the repercussions for speaking out have been well-illustrated. Unemployment and hungry families are not welcome ideas when there is no reason to believe your complaints will be acted upon. Or at least, acted upon positively. Josey is subjected to degrading and brutal reprisals as are some of the other women despite having not complained themselves. Particularly disgusting, though it's hard to pick out the worst from so many choices, is an instance where Sherry (Michelle Monaghan) finds semen in her locker.

Josey finally gets to court only to have her sex life put on trial. That this is done is no surprise. In the actual case Jensen vs. Eveleth Taconite the women were subjected to detailed examinations of their personal lives after a judge granted the company's lawyers access to their medical records. Where the film begins to falter is when it tries to defend Josey's sex life. Josey's sex life is not the point and never was. By focusing on that it focuses less on how she and her coworkers were routinely terrorized at work. Though her lawyer Bill White (Woody Harrelson) does an adequate job in rebutting arguments, the arguments are ones that need not be addressed. All the court scenes deal with only this.

The struggles of Aimes are based largely on the events of Lois Jensen's Job-like struggle. Where the film fails though, is by trying to rearrange them neatly and add "Oscar moments". Many of the actions, even the ones that seem over the top, actually did happen. But they didn't happen like they do in North Country. Particularly regrettable are a courtroom confrontation between White and Bobby Sharpe (Jeremy Renner) and a surrogate father-son talk between Kyle (Sean Bean) and Sammy (Thomas Curtis). The awful Hollywood legalisms and almost absurdist melodramatic conclusion is a tremendous letdown after a great start and middle. It's worth noting that the missteps happen where the film strays farthest from the true story, the Michael Seitzman coming through maybe. That's not to say that it isn't worth seeing or that is doesn't have brilliant moments, such as Sissy Spacek's one woman wife-strike, it's just that a halfway decent ending would have made this one of the year's best films. Instead it abandons an important and well done story for the sake of, what? Oh well, at least it was better than Disclosure.
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8/10
Class action suit
jotix1005 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Josey Aimes, the beautiful young woman at the center of this story, has been betrayed by almost everyone in her short life. As we meet her, she is abandoning a situation that has turned bad in the home she shares with an abusive man. She packs whatever she can and her two kids, heading north to the home of her parents; she is trying to put her life on track. Josey's father still bears a grudge against his daughter because the unwanted pregnancy of the girl, who never revealed who was the man responsible for a child she decided to have.

Instead of finding a nice environment when she applies, and is accepted, working at the coal mine in Northern Minnesota, Josey becomes the one where all the men loved to pick on. The miners resent the intrusion of women in what has been a male dominated work place up to 1975, when women were allowed in the mines. Her former friend, Bobby Sharp, seems to be the ring leader who makes her life a living hell. Complaining to the president of the mine, only gets Josey deeper in trouble as the chauvinist owner tells her point blank he has no time for her accusations about what's really going on.

At the same time, all the other women in the mine, who are also ridiculed by the male workers, turn against Josey. They don't want to lose jobs that pay well, and even though they are also ridiculed by the macho men, they tolerate the situation and don't want to make waves. When Josey feels she has had enough, she quits the job that she needs badly. Glory, her best friend and ally, comes down with a rare liver disease, so there is no help from her. When Josey has tried everything, she goes to Bill White, a lawyer, hoping he would be able to help her sue the mine and get her job back.

Josey and Bill have to deal with a formidable opponent, as Mr. Pearson, the owner, has a lot of money and powerful friends and lawyers to deal with problems. The judge, who is hearing the proposal tells Bill and Josey he will consider a class action suit if at least three persons come forward, something that seems almost impossible when they start the arguments. Josey and Bill persevere against all odds to prove their case which result in a monumental defeat for the mine, clearly taking Josey's position.

During the trial, the defense introduces a witness, one of Josey's high school teachers, as a character witness. This, in turn, triggers a chain of events that no one expected. Also, Bill White questions Bobby Sharp about his role in a school incident in which he didn't come to Josey's help when the girl badly needed it.

Niki Caro, whose previous film we had greatly admired, seemed to us the wrong choice for directing "North Country". We just couldn't imagine she would be able to pull it off, working in another environment and a situation that probably presented a challenge to the way she worked. In spite of all that, Ms. Caro succeeded with this movie that even though it recalls other films about female sexual harassment that came before. Ms. Caro's film is made even better by the cinematographer Chris Menges, who is one of the best men working today. The music of Gustavo Santaolalla, plus the atmospheric popular songs in the film, work well in the context. The screen play by Michael Seitzman is based on the novel that chronicled a real case that serves as the model for "North Country".

Charlize Theron appears to love to take chances. Ms. Theron, a beautiful and sophisticated woman, doesn't mind changing some of the couture clothes she wears to transform herself as this working class woman. She gives an honest performance as Josey. Frances McDormand, who plays Glory, is only seen during the first half of the film. Sean Bean, Woody Harrelson, Jeremy Renner, Linda Edmond, Thomas Curtis, Sissy Spacek and Richard Jenkins, among the large cast, are seen in supporting roles.

Judging by some of the comments submitted to IMDb, it appears there are some people who must have hated this film. Frankly, while "North Country" could have used stronger material, especially in the court proceedings, it is an engaging movie that will satisfy its audience.
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8/10
NORTH COUNTRY--Inhospitable Country For Women
KissEnglishPasto31 July 2016
..........................................................from Pasto,Colombia...Via: L.A. CA., CALI, COLOMBIA...and ORLANDO, FL

North Country is stark proof that truth is stranger than fiction. The Director, New-Zealander Niki Caro (Whale Rider), perhaps a very apt directorial choice, being a woman, yet at the same time, precisely not being American! In the mines of Minnesota in 1989, only 3% of the workers are women. There is a whole confluence of constantly orchestrated pressure applied against all female miners intended to get them to resign.

Charlize Theron (Who won the Oscar for best actress in MONSTER in the role of the only female serial-killer in U.S. history, Florida's Aileen Wuornos) as expected, is absolutely magnificent as Josey Aimes, a woman whose only motivation is wanting to provide a better life for her two children. The fight is quite a tough one for Josey. At first, everyone seems clearly to be set against her. Neither her friends, nor his parents, not even her own children give her their support! But Josey is a very stubborn human being who does not permit anything or anyone to discourage her. Gradually, her unshakable character, her unparalleled courage and the enormity of the injustice committed against her finally begin working in her favor.

North Country at times does exhibit some rather lethargic moments, but the cast and the quality of the story are so outstanding that is easy to overlook this minor flaw. Frances McDormand (1996 Oscar winner for FARGO) also shines in the multifaceted role of best friend; coworker, representing women's interests among union workers and victim of one of the worst evils occasionally affecting mine workers: Lung Cancer! Woody Harrelson (Natural Born Killers) is convincing as the ex-football player town hero turned lawyer who takes on Josey's case. Sissy Spacek (Carrie: original version) as the dutiful Mom and Richard Jenkins (Six Feet Under) as the skeptical dad.

Almost everyone who works or has worked recently in the United States knows that the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace is something that is taken extremely seriously. This is thanks, in large part, to Josey Aimes, and the struggle she was forced to wage against that Minnesota mining company over 30 years ago! It is really worth traveling to North Country to see both Charlize Theron's and Frances McDormand's Oscar Nomination performances!

8*...ENJOY!/DISFRUTELA!
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7/10
Courtroom Scenes are Flat Out Ridiculous
gelman@attglobal.net6 January 2006
Dramatic license is certainly forgivable but this film would have been much more effective if not for the beyond-Perry-Mason touches in the courtroom where the plaintiff's case is rescued at the 11th hour and 59th minute by antics that wouldn't pass muster in any courtroom in America, unless the defendant's attorney (Linda Emond) was utterly incompetent and the judge was a blithering idiot. Surely it should have been possible for a competent script writer to bring the drama to its conclusion in a more believable way. The manifest absurdity of the last 15 minutes of the movie undermined (for me) what was otherwise another excellent performance by Charlize Theron and the usual outstanding work of Frances McDormand. For those who haven't seen her on the stage, this may have been the first time most movie goers will have encountered Linda Emond, who plays the defense attorney. She is a gifted actress who deserves better than being asked to stand by like a cigar store Indian while the plaintiff's attorney (Woody Harrelson) commits every procedural violation that could possibly be conceived. Don't blame Harrelson, however. The one-time goofy bartender of "Cheers" actually does very well in the scenes outside the courtroom. Frankly, I wish this film had stuck more closely to the facts and avoided the phony fireworks at the end.
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7/10
Uneven handling alternates between sympathetic, heavy-handed and mawkish...
moonspinner5510 May 2006
In the iron mines of Northern Minnesota, circa 1989, a young woman (a single mother of two with a shady-lady past) goes to work as a miner and encounters personally degrading harassment from the mostly male crew. A compassionate and sensitive rewriting of a true incident--one that took some ten years to resolve in the courts--but possibly overcrowded with too much melodramatic content. Supporting characters--like Frances McDormand's dump truck driver--do not get enough quality screen-time to completely validate the time which they do have. The over-emotional finale is also questionable (were these filmmakers ever in a courtroom before?), but it does provide the audience with the release it needs. In the lead, Charlize Theron gives a finely-wrought, gripping performance; she shows her guts, fear, and bravery, but I'm not sure how convincing she is as mother to an older teenage boy (it seems a little soon for Theron, and the same can be said for Sissy Spacek as the proverbial salt-of-the-earth grandmother). Does the film show all sides and give both the men and the women a fair shake? Probably not, but it's not a man-hater movie either, and since it's told from the female protagonist's point of view, her endurance against certain men is the focal point here. Ultimately, the movie is about her courage, her strength in standing up for herself, and this is expressed here extremely well. *** from ****
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5/10
Nothing unexpected
Ric-726 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
You won't encounter any surprises in this well-intentioned and mostly well-acted film. The script was the problem.

The extent of the very real indignities endured by the women workers could have been established in much less time. About an hour of this film was devoted to piling one horrifying incident on another. It appeared as though no male worker was uneasy about any of this, and no supervisory personnel were at all uneasy about something they obviously knew was going on. No one had a crisis of conscience. The supervisory personnel ignored the problem because they, too, were sexist pigs, rather than because they were afraid to change anything by challenging a bureaucracy they were a part of.

In light of all of this black-and-white posturing, the last minute conversions of everyone seemed a bit unbelievable. The high school boyfriend-turned-sexual-abuser decides to become honest on the witness stand, finally becoming a person rather than an abstraction of evil. Why did he suddenly decide to do the right thing, after being a near-rapist himself? Why did he go from being a high school friend to an arch-enemy? Dad's conversion when Mom left him is similarly swift and unexplained--he showed absolutely no affection for his daughter before that. It would have been nice to know the source of his animosity, so that we could see why it was changed. And the director sabotages Dad's conversion, during his speech to the Union, by panning away from him to his daughter for her reaction, when they were standing so close a two-shot could have shown both faces.

Similarly, the teenage son--why does he automatically believe everyone except his mother? I couldn't see why--particularly because he would be in a position to know whether or not his mom is a slut--she seemed to have very little of a social life. And how does a simple conversation with the kid suddenly change everything? Personally, I found the mother-son relationship, including what caused it and how it would be resolved, to be a more interesting theme than the movie's actual theme. Laws may be passed to address sexual discrimination, but poisoned family relations cannot be remedied by legislation.
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6/10
Feels familiar,VERY familiar,among other problems
S.R. Dipaling5 March 2008
When divorced,single mom Josey Aimes(Charlize Theron,who's definitely NOT afraid to get dirty or uglified for a role)begins work in the rural Minnesota Taconite mines--where her father(Richard Jenkins)has worked a long,secure job--even she isn't prepared for the kind of mental,verbal and physical abuse she and her fellow women receive from the fellow miners who(surprise!)don't cotton well to ladies working in the pits with them. She soldiers on for a number of years before she finally has had enough and decides--after being already ignored by management when she complains--to quit and bring a class action suit against the company,fully aware that she is almost alone in this pursuit,save the somewhat reluctant help of a local lawyer and former hometown sports hero(Woody Harrelson).

I wavered on what rating to give this show for these reasons: the acting and visual direction of this film IS,I must confess,quite good. Credit practically the entire cast for the former,and director Niki Caro and cinematography of Chris Menges for the latter,but the overall tone of this movie is 1)very familiar stuff tot the point of reeking of "TV Movie" material, 2)manipulative by a mile, 3)hits on each emotional note--from the sort of "Girl POwer" quiet assertions of the film's script to the overt nastiness displayed by nearly all of the males working the mines--almost in a perfect cue; 4)the fictionalizing the stories,then mixing the time-lines from the actual case the movie and the book it was based on (namely,Jenson v. Eleveth Mines,filed in 1984,settled in 1998;whereas the film is set in 1989 and almost instantly flips to Septemeber 1991,circa the Anita Hill/Clarence THomas hearings,with the events-to-case trial time relationship murky at best);and 5)the sort of "feel good" third act denouement where the town,once boorishly stubborn against the idea of women working in the mines to being stirred by Ms.Aimes' case. An extra storyline of Aimes being raped in school and thus affecting,at least partly,her condition as being a troubled single mom who has a murky knowledge(or lack thereof)of the paternity of her equally troubled son is probably the most emotionally authentic storyline in this movie,but it feels mixed in for purely embellishment sake in this story,thus calling into question just how much this movie truly represented the true events being retold.

A famous saying says what good intentions pave the way to,but I think in this case good intentions pave the construction of a film that is underwhelming and somewhat disappointing. The story of the Eleveth mine workers and the discrimination case they eventually won absolutely deserve3s being retold,but this movie seems to be only interested in invoking it,then crafting an artificial story to frame it,as if for fear that audiences WOULDN'T get this story in the raw. On it's own,this movie's story works enough to interest most viewers,myself included, and the sincerity behind it is true I'm sure. But this film's over-familiarity and manipulation dilute the potency of the message. More entertainment than enlightenment,it's intentions are good but tough to take to heart. WAtch it for the performances,and one should feel better about it,at least marginally.
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7/10
The Class Action.
Spikeopath18 July 2009
Josey Aimes (Charlize Theron) leaves her abusive husband and returns to her hometown in Northern Minnesota. After a prompt from her old friend Glory (Frances McDormand), Josey now a single mother with two children to support, seeks employment at the town iron mine plant. Predominantly employing men, Josey is expecting the work to be hard and gruelling, what she wasn't expecting tho is the mental and sexual harassment that the women and herself are expected to tolerate. Finally having enough, she starts to speak out about her treatment, but she finds that there are few allies both at work and at home. Her career, her life and her family are all sure to be affected as things reach breaking point.

North Country is inspired by the 2002 book Class Action: The Story of Lois Jenson, which details the landmark case of Jenson V Eveleth Taconite Company that changed the sexual harassment law.

There is always a danger in film land that serious, based on facts topics get too much of a Hollywood sheen. So shall it be with Niki Caro's (Whale Rider) interpretation of this most important part of American law. The impact is there, very much so, but in the need to keep the audience on board, one feels they are being force fed drama when really none was needed. Having a beauty like Charlize Theron playing your lead hardly helps cast off the glossy feel of the production. "Rightly" nominated for Best Actress (she has gusto in abundance), Theron is however miscast as regards the nature of the piece, her aura and star bank-ability his hard to ignore during the more dramatic moments. As the New York Times review noted on its release, "it's a star vehicle with heart," and it's impossible to argue with that astute summary.

Still there is much to enjoy here. In amongst the annoying contrivances put our way to further the emotional aspects, there beats a serious and dramatic heart. Coupled with a more than competently handled court case finale, and aided by McDormand's highly effective performance, North Country makes its valid point in spite of its obvious problems. Though the film didn't make back its budget of $30 million, it got people talking about the topic at its core. Putting the revolting issue of sexual harassment back in the public conscious can never be a bad thing, so with that, North Country achieved its aims. If it's as impacting as its cousins, Norma Rae, Silkwood and Erin Brockovich is debatable, but it is potent and it is acted with aplomb from its principals. It's just regrettable that one can't quite shake off knowing it's all a bit too glossy for its own good. 7/10
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3/10
Pure torture
filmfanjen3 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Yes, this is a very gripping film - because it's basically two hours of watching Josey Aimes (Charlize Theron) be tortured.

Everyone is against her, her friends, son, and father, as well as her enemies. Almost the entire film plays one note - her being horribly abused and unjustly accused and blamed - over and over and over again.

And that's not my idea of entertainment. If it's yours, then you'll love this film! P.S. I found her father's sudden reversal at the end completely unjustified (although certainly welcome). Ditto the other women in the plant 1) being completely against her and blaming her, and 2) then flipping just in time for the magical upbeat ending. This film has it both ways. It melodramatically exaggerates both the abuse and the miraculous happy ending.
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3/10
Please.
grounddnlouky24 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Why is it that it hasn't occurred to anyone that this is really just a LIfetime movie with a few good names? And why can't a movie ever BE the true story instead of merely being INSPIRED by one? And why is it not a movie about female subjugation/ victimization until one get splayed out and raped by the ever-ignorant male presence? And why do we voyeuristically see this through the doubled sight of observer and film-maker? And isn't the story itself enough? And why is this getting such good reviews? The performances are in fact solid and inspired, but my sister and I both walked out when the school girl fetishism begins. Come on, people. We're smarter than this.
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4/10
Boy, those miners are really MEAN!
FilmSnobby30 October 2005
The feel-good feminism of Niki Caro's *Whale Rider* from a couple years back becomes a passionate tirade in her new film, *North Country*, based on the landmark sexual harassment case involving miners in the northern Minnesota iron mines. The class action suit was apparently brought in the late Eighties, and finally wrapped up in 1998 -- which may explain why Caro and her screenwriter Michael Seitzman decided that it might be a good idea to simply fictionalize the whole affair. Can't make a movie about briefs being submitted to a court over a period of a decade, I guess. Despite the fictionalization, the movie serves as a timely crash course on how recent the legality of women's safety in the workplace actually is: the characters in the film watch clips from the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings. Sissy Spacek snaps the TV off in horror after Ms. Hill describes Thomas talking about his own penis. These hearings occurred, I believe, in 1991. So, kids, the federal laws on sexual harassment don't date back to the era of black & white TV: "back in the day" was, like, 15 minutes ago. Advances in civilization are always more recent than we think. I can certainly remember the effect of the mining case on my own workplace, even though I'd never heard of it: by the mid-Nineties, we were marched off to sexual harassment sensitivity trainings and were barraged with xeroxes on the subject, to be appended to our Policy Manual. What had seemed like simple common decency had apparently never before been buttressed by the law.

Perhaps because these wounds are still raw, Caro, in depicting this material, goes for the Hollywood Prestige Picture approach, much like Jonathan Demme did in his approach to AIDS with *Philadelphia* back in '93. The signposts are huge and easy to read; the heroes are virtuous sufferers; the villains are pasteboard meanies; the issues are never ambiguous. In other words, *North Country* is simple entertainment, and it succeeds quite well on that level. Even so, I do think that Caro trowels on the villainy rather thickly. We expect to see macho jerks in an iron mine, but the guys in this film are heathen savages, looking and behaving like a San Berdoo motorcycle gang in the grips of a three-day booze-and-meth binge. They literally play in excrement (smearing obscenities on the women's bathroom wall with it) and, in what is probably the first depiction of semen in a mainstream Hollywood film, spray themselves in the women's lockers. Meanwhile, the grab-ass games, adolescent potty-mouth insults, and violent threats are unrelenting from punch-in to punch-out. They don't even let the girls take a pee break, for goodness sake. During all this, we don't really get a sense of Charlize Theron's day-to-day work duties at the mine. Apparently, it's just one terrifying pile-on after another.

Maybe this is just as well for Theron the actress, who admittedly excels in extreme situations. A big, bold actress, dangerously beautiful, she attacks the Powerful Moments with great confidence, leaving all that subtlety stuff to the rest of the top-notch cast, which includes the likes of Spacek as her mother, Richard Jenkins as her father, Frances McDormand as her union rep pal (with a toned-down *Fargo* accent), Sean Bean as McDormand's injured husband, an atypically credible Woody Harrelson as the lawyer who takes on Theron's case, and Linda Emond as the mine's attack-dog defense lawyer. Also, take note of Michelle Monaghan as Theron's co-worker Sherry: a Rising Star, if I may prophesy. *North Country* is ultimately made watchable by these great actors, even if their parts are diagrammatic in the extreme. The obvious case here is Jenkins as Theron's dad: for most of the film he's forced to be an unfeeling, heartless character, who stews in shame about his daughter and doesn't support her when she's suffering at the mine; conveniently, he does an about-face at the union meeting hall, bringing down the house with a great speech that castigates the greasy-haired apes in attendance ("I don't have a friend in this room!"). Jenkins' tone-perfect line reading makes it easy for us to swallow what is otherwise a prime example of Hollywood malarkey of the first order. Say much the same for the rest of the cast's work in relationship to the movie as a whole. *North Country* is ultimately justified by the actors.

4 stars out of 10. Nice Dylan tunes on the soundtrack, incidentally -- though a movie called *North Country* surely required the immortal "Nashville Skyline" version of "Girl from the North Country", in which Johnny Cash duets with Dylan. Such an inclusion would've lifted my rating up to 5.
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2/10
sinks in muddied waters
bordernaki18 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
What happened?! I saw Whale Rider, loved it, and expected a really sensitive and intelligent next film from Niki Caro. But the ideas in this film felt so dated. Niki Caro's themes are obviously about young girls or women thwarted by (often violent) male power. To prove it, the film simplifies men into the standard soapy "Insensitive Brute" or "Panderer". With no complex male antagonists to play against, the women came across as reduced and simplified, mostly appearing as victims or incapable of thinking for themselves (for example, why didn't they put a lock on their change-room door to keep the men out, or photograph the evidence of the bullying?). At times the film was shot like a thriller but this over-promised the threat, leaving the story sagging where it should have been peaking. As for the internal logic, why, in the court scene, is there so much ranting about how an individual's sexual history should be inadmissible, yet it is Josie Aimes's sexual history that ultimately swings public opinion in her direction? There are other structural issues but, ultimately, it read like a film that cast its net too wide into very muddied waters.
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10/10
Well done and thought provoking movie!
Lindsay14 September 2005
I was fortunate to see North Country last night in Boston with several of my friends. While this movie may not be the best for some survivors of sexual harassment/assault because of the graphic nature of some scenes, I found this movie to be tastefully done and respectful to the sensitive nature of this case. I have come away from this movie with an even greater drive to work towards the rights of women. Situations like these have improved, but they are still out there. The three main actresses did a phenomenal job in the movie, and I do not think the film would have been as successful if Charlize Theron, Sissy Spacek, and Frances McDormand had decided to not be involved in this project. This film was powerful, thought provoking, and also showed magnificent beauty even in the most desolate of places and heartbreaking conditions. I rarely ever purchase movies, but this is one I would not only see when it is released in October, I would purchase it as well.
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9/10
A Very Moving Tale of Overcoming Challenge, Doing What's Right
Jamester13 September 2005
I was lucky enough to view this to a packed house at the Toronto International Film Festival with the director (Niki Caro of Whale Rider fame) present this morning. I really liked this movie and recommend it whole-heartedly -- especially but not exclusively for anyone familiar with Niki Caro's previous work, Whale Rider. With clarity and context, it illustrates a fictional account of how a woman stands up for what she believes is right while working in a mine in northern Minnesota.

The director tells a very moving tale and does so carefully with all the right points put in to keep the story tight. We see illustration after illustration of the life that the main character experiences. You understand what the character experiences, and you are there with the character's struggles -- not only mentally, but the anguish she also finds in family, parents, and friends. You're pulled in watching, experiencing, hoping and for me, quietly rooting for the lead character. This really connected me to the story -- something very important, especially for this type of movie.

Also, seeing this movie in 2005 decades after what 'really happened' heightened my appreciation of this film. It let me at once understand the significance of how a relatively short period of time surrounding a woman's life changed not only her life, but how its effects have rippled throughout the US and other countries. But what really humanizes the story is how family and surrounding people react, support, and interact. This is key. Without this, the story would be flat. Some great choices were made in capturing the heart in this story.

Beautifully shot, well-told, and well-done all-around by a strong cast.
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1/10
What a corny movie!
floyd_ferret27 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is about as realistic as pretty woman or some other mass market drama that would appear on the lifetime network. The movie looks like its going to be about this big court case, and then it becomes this corny drama about this woman and the relationship between her father and on.

Don't worry it all comes to together in a happy neat little package in the end, and her whole family loves her. The end sequences in the court are hilarious, the court proceedings totally unrealistic, the characters totally unbelievable. They guys in factory are like cartoon characters they are so over the top, and boss of the company is so cliché it hurts to watch.
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5/10
Despite being a little preachy and over the top, North Country is still an effective drama
christian12324 April 2006
Charlize Theron is Josey Aimes, a single mother of two children who moves back home to Minnesota after her boyfriend gets abusive, and has to start working at the mine to earn a living. When she's put through all sorts of indignities from the mine's male workers, she gets a lawyer (Woody Harrelson) to help her file a class action suit against the mining company for sexual harassment.

After watching the trailer for North Country, I thought the film was going to be a very bad feminist movie but it's a lot more than that. Sure, the film may display most guys in the film as sexist pigs but it wasn't too overdone. Niki Caro captures all the relationships and all the situations so well. The relationship between Josey and her two kids was very well done and very moving. Her sacrifice for them was great and the film captured that so well. The relationship between Josey and her father was also pretty good and kind of hard to watch because he didn't help his daughter at first. The relationship between Josey and Bill (Harrelson) wasn't very good. They tried to push the romance at the beginning of the film but then completely dropped it. It seemed like a big waste of time and a lot of work for nothing. Caro did a fine job at capturing all the problems the women were having. Some were hard to watch because the situations were kind of disgusting but they were pretty realistic.

The acting, for the most part, is pretty good and strong. The best being Charlize Theron. She gives a very heartwarming and effective performance. Frances McDormand also gives a good performance though she didn't really deserve an Oscar nomination. Her performance wasn't bad, just kind of ordinary. Woody Harrelson gives an okay performance. He's not very convincing when he's in the courtroom but he's pretty good outside the courtroom. Sissy Spacek was in the film for about a total of 25 minutes. The trailer makes it seem like she's an important character but she was underused. Sean Bean gives an okay performance but he was a little weak during the serious scenes. Richard Jenkins plays Josey's father and he gives a strong performance as well. The only performances I didn't like were from some of the co workers at the mine. Most of them were pretty weak and most were pretty unconvincing.

The film is of course not perfect. It's a little over the top and preachy. They didn't beat their message into the viewers head but sometimes they did shove it down our throats a little too much. The only bad thing Caro did were the court room scenes. I thought the film was pretty realistic except for all the times they were in the courtroom. It was so cheesy and over the top. It didn't kill the movie but a more mature approach to them would have been better. The ending was also a little weak. It was too cheesy and it felt rushed. The film is over two hours long but apparently not long enough because not everything wraps up nicely. In the end, Norma Rae is better and so is Erin Brockovich but North Country is still a powerful drama that should appeal too most people. Rating 7/10
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6/10
Is North Country in my Country?
Chris Marquis10 November 2005
The movie "North Country" was an interesting movie claiming to be "based on a true story." I am not pig headed and insensitive to women's rights or any other human's rights, but these type of movies always have the tendency to get carried away. Many times they are portrayed to take place so long ago I cannot verify whether its correct or not. I was in my teens in the nineties, and I'm sure there was some questionable activities going on in some parts of the country, but there is no way that this would have been able to fly anywhere in our country. If you like sympathetic movies that make you feel sorry for the main character, go see this, its right up your ally. However, as for me, I enjoy the art of film making and creativity, and not of that of GI JANE. The acting was great in the movie, and will probably be up for some Oscars, but it just ain't my cup of tea.
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5/10
Moral: MEN BAD
Dan Franzen (dfranzen70)25 February 2006
This movie, based on the true story of female miners who sued their company to get equal rights in the workplace, suffers from a malady that affects most true-story movies, and that is that its characters are either REALLY GOOD or REALLY BAD for 80% of the movie, then some of the bad ones magically see the light in the final scenes, this redeeming themselves and helping the hero(ine) to win the day.

Charlize Theron dresses down again, somewhat, as Josie Aimes, a single mom of two kids (by different fathers) who leaves her abusive husband to live with her parents. Her dad Hank works at the local mine, and when Josie runs into an old (and female) schoolmate who encourages her to join the company, Josie reluctantly does so.

But she finds it's not easy - and that's not even including the work itself. The men resent her and try every kind of harassment they can think of. The women want her to sit down and take it so they don't have to suffer, too. Her dad hates her, because she's in a man's job (plus, he's a real misogynist jerk), and her mom doesn't like her much either, because Josie did, after all, leave her husband, and you're supposed to stand by your man.

See where the problem lies? The movie tries hard to paint each character with one brush only, and then beats you over the head with that characterization for much of the movie. The script is so obvious, it's tough not to see the big setup coming, and sure enough it turns out that not all men ARE bad. Why, some were merely confused, and by gosh they're gonna do the right thing, here in the final ten minutes of the movie! The movie is bookended by court scenes, as various characters testify against or on behalf of the suit. Much of the movie deals with the (sometimes literal) crap that Josie and the other women had to go through, although she's the only one with any kind of gumption to do do anything about it.

Theron's pretty good, although this isn't a "gettin' ugly" kind of role like that of Aileen Wuornos. Her Josie actually looks pretty throughout the movie, for the most part. But Theron hit all of the right notes and might even have deserved her Oscar nomination. Frances McDormand plays her tough-as-nails friend, who's a union rep at the plant. McDormand is a great actress, and she turned in a good performance in a made-for-Oscar role. Woody Harrelson (yes, can you imagine) is solid as Josie's lawyer, a former hockey player.

North Country is manipulative treacle, but even the toughest miner would melt a little during the final scenes, but it's an outcome that's telegraphed from the get-go. The fun should be in getting there, but when the characters are given laughable, overwrought dialog to mouth, it's as much fun as.. well, maybe working in an actual mine.
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4/10
Hollywood gimmick, making a beautiful woman ugly to sell tickets
bradenabc12312 October 2005
I saw this movie in Toronto and after just having left my own job because of sexual harassment, I thought this movie was an insult to what I had been through. Society loves seeing a beautiful woman uglied, it's such an advertising scheme. Charlize does a great job as she always does. But whoever wrote this has no idea really what sexual harassment is about, how is can truly erode everything that you stand for. Sexual Harrassemt does to your mind what the disease did to Frances McDormand's body in the movie, A typical courtroom drama with manipulative music and adorable children. I say go see proof or read the book instead. This movie is Hollywood's attempt to say they care about issues but it is a predictable manipulation.
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8/10
Austin Movie Show review...
leilapostgrad23 October 2005
This is the kind of drama that breaks your heart over and over again without a moment to recover. It's NOT an easy film to watch. But that's what makes North Country so extraordinary. Charlize Theron plays Josey Aimes, a young mother who leaves her abusive husband and returns to her hometown to start a new life and support herself and her two kids. Almost immediately, we learn that this is a woman who has been judged, criticized, and ostracized and called a "whore" ever since she became pregnant in high school. Josey takes a job at the local mine because it's the best paying job she can find, and she's determined to give her kids a comfortable life. She and her female co-workers are reminded every day how unwanted and unwelcome they are at the mine. They are physically, verbally, mentally, and sexually abused on a daily basis. After being physically attacked and threatened, Josey quits and starts to fight back by suing the company for sexual harassment.

I was finally pushed over the "tears threshold" when Josey's dad stands up at the miners' union meeting and defends his daughter for the first time in her life. After that, I was sobbing on and off for the entire duration of the film. While the entire cast is perfect, I believe the Best Supporting Actress Nomination must go to Frances McDormand who injects some much-needed comic relief into this bleak-but-brave story. Movies about rape and abuse are never easy to watch, but North Country is such an important story to hear. We as women need to be reminded that women before us suffered and fought for what we take for granted today.
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5/10
Comments by Alfred Hitchcock that apply here.
adykstra-16 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Some comments by Alfred Hitchcock may find a parallel in this film. Hitchcock was speaking about the difference between surprise and suspense. Two men are sitting in a room when, unexpectedly, a bomb explodes. That is a surprise. Another way to show the scene is to show the two men in the room, pan down to the floor under the table and the audience sees a box, hears a ticking sound, sees that a bomb is going to explode very soon. The audience holds its breath in suspense, silently urging the two men to quickly get out of the room.

Now think about North Country. For most of the film the men of the area are portrayed as social cretins. (Is anybody in Minnesota taking offense from this screenplay? You should!) Then, near the end of the story, an "explosion", a surprise!-- we discover there are men in Minnesota who have a conscience. Only now do we see men who are morally conflicted over what happened to this woman. All they needed was a scolding to bring it out. In this film, this is a "surprise". Up until this point we have been shown little evidence of sympathy. Dramatically it is dishonest to portray 100% of the men as cretins. If ANY group is portrayed dramatically as being 100% the same, something is wrong. (Hitler did falsely but effectively.) This screenplay portrays a victim and all men are cretins/victimizers. Is nobody conflicted? I don't buy it. Dramatically this would have worked much better, I would have been in "suspense" if I had been shown, early on, certain men who see it all happen, have doubts and conflict BUT WHO DO NOTHING. That is dramatically interesting. Even the father doesn't grow until an extremity. I was intriguers by the opposing lawyer (a woman) who seemed to be the one prostituting herself in an evil cause. I almost caught a glimpse of her moral conflict.

By the way, does homophobia reign supreme in Minnesota? I don't think so, but you wouldn't know it here. What's with all the "homo" epithets in film lately?
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2/10
Charlize Theron still can't act
jenniferbunchen30 December 2005
It's amazing how she came back to the well yet again.

Apparently, she too thinks that making herself less pretty and spending big on industry ads is the same as good acting. It's not.

Just as in Monster, Ms. Theron shows us absolutely nothing in her acting beyond making painful to watch faces. But that's OK, with the right Oscar campaign it will probably be enough to get a few more awards.

Of course, that will make those awards even more irrelevant than they already are. I mean if a bad actress like Charlize Theron can get awards, what is their worth? That's how an Oscar has become a Joke.

as for the film, it is a predictable pandering effort to the various voters in Hollywood: it is "important" with a suitably dour tone that makes the voters confident they are doing well for their Academy. After all, they wouldn't want to vote for a good film merely because it was good right? the important thing is to show that all those ad dollars were well spent and reward the best Oscar marketing campaign.

The whole operation leaves quite a bitter taste in the mouth.
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Men Are Pigs
aliasanythingyouwant1 November 2005
Niki Caro's North Country dazzles us with its unfaltering right-mindedness even as it's hammering us silly with ploys so shameless even Frank Capra would be embarrassed to have anything to do with them. You might call this the Schindler's List approach - taking a position that no rational, halfway-educated person would dare oppose, then slipping in under this iron-clad cover to deliver the most unblushing exercise in emotional manipulation imaginable. Who would dare contend that the poor, down-trodden heroine of North Country, Josey Aimes, isn't a courageous soul for standing up to all the icky iron-ore-miners who so vilely harass her and her female co-workers? There's always a core of indisputability to movies like North Country, but around this concrete nucleus lie so many layers of bull that it no longer matters if the central premise is unassailable. Why is it necessary to resort to shameless movie tricks in the name of a truth ninety-percent of the audience would already regard as self-evident? Is it some instinct for emotional chicanery, some need to push the story beyond the factual and into some fantasy-land of super-nobility? Or is it simply that people like Niki Caro, and Spielberg, and Capra before them, don't trust their audience's ability to absorb the facts themselves, and feel they must garland them with simple-minded absolutism, didacticism and de-glamorization as a way of guaranteeing their message gets across?

The real-life drama concerns Josey Aimes (Charlize Theron), a married mother-of-two who leaves her abusive husband for the snow-swept hinterlands of Northern Minnesota, there to take up residence with her taciturn iron-miner father (Richard Jenkins) and soft-spoken mother (Sissy Spacek). Josey resolves herself not to fall into another bad relationship in the name of simple security; she needs the kind of job that will let her support her two kids herself, and the only job available is as a menial laborer in the mines, where the physical dangers inherent in extracting iron-ore come second to the ones posed by the primitive-minded, brazenly sexist, bodily-function-obsessed men who work there. Josey and the other girls are tough-cookies who can handle a little razzing, but what happens to them goes beyond chummy jocularity; the male miners resent the women, their intrusion upon the hallowed male workspace, and take obscene pleasure in systematically intimidating them. Josey comes in for an inordinate share of abuse thanks to the presence of an old high-school flame, Bobby (Jeremy Renner), whose attitude toward her remains proprietary, and thanks to her own dodgy sexual history, which gives the miners and their wives plenty of excuse to berate her. But Josey is not the kind to just turn-tail and run; she goes to management, which demonstrates no desire to shake-up the profitable status-quo by addressing the gripes of a single ill-treated woman, and when this doesn't work she turns to a down-on-his-luck lawyer, Bill (Woody Harrelson), who agrees to bring her case to court as a class-action suit, provided she can convince more of her harassed female co-workers to take up the cause.

Movies like North Country are inherently patronizing - not just because they depict lower-class people in a hollowly ennobling, often stereotypical way, but because they're made under the assumption that the gist will not get across to average people unless the factual story is dressed-up with melodramatic plot-movements, emotionally explicit acting and direct preaching. Niki Caro and her team are not interested in simple facts - rather than present the story straight-forwardly, even-handedly, they go out of their way in jacking the outrage to a fever pitch, emphasizing the yawning gulf between the ape-like behavior of the men and the saintly durability of Josey, who derives more radiance and strength from each insult and provocation. The situation is seen almost entirely from Josey's point-of-view; the miners are a mass of hateful, vaguely grotesque humanity, a bunch of craggy-faced gargoyles in soiled coveralls, the managers and owners similarly callous, freakish monsters thinly glossed with duplicitousness. The photography emphasizes the hard, ugly faces of the miners while bringing out Josey's own angelic glow; the movie divides humanity into bad people, who look like evolution has passed them by, and good people, who are all understatedly attractive. The heroine, Josey, is played by Charlize Theron less as a suffering human being than a symbol of feminine resolve in the face of patriarchal insensitivity. Theron was so impressive in Monster because she could affect pride and toughness while keeping her emotions close to the surface; in North Country Theron's emotions crack the tough exterior, spilling forth in scene-after-scene of bawling, blubbering and snot-blowing. The emotions are pushed so forcefully by Theron and Caro that they become unseemly; we start out being ashamed of the behavior of the miners, but wind up more embarrassed for Theron, who is alternately a de-glamorized, quasi-iconic figure (she becomes almost Eisensteinian in her head-bandanna and coveralls) and a spewing tear-factory. Wouldn't we feel sympathy toward Josey even if Theron didn't turn every scene into a display of her ability to prole herself out, act the toughie or crumble into a mass of quivering, Oscar-worthy jelly? Wouldn't we applaud the triumph of the just over the greedy and heartless even if the courtroom scenes didn't degenerate into wild contrivance? The movie sells itself too hard; it's not content to rest on being right, but must stagger us with its rightness, resorting to such base trickery that it undermines its own position, becoming nearly as crude-minded, as smugly self-assured as the people it's against.
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