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Saturday, July 22, 2006

North Country Movie Review

North Country
starring: Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson
directed by: Niki Caro
126 minutes
rated R for sequences involving sexual harassment including violence and dialogue, and for language

Ok, so...North Country.Took me awhile to compose myself enough to write this review. I should say, right here from the start, that if you are a woman who has ever suffered abuse, this movie is going to kick your metaphorical ass. I had to stop it several times, go outside and smoke, pace around a little and curse, just to get through the whole thing.

North Country is not boring. On the contrary, it’s gripping, well-acted, kick-you-in-the-guts dramatic… but let me remind readers that this is the BIASED review, and therefore it could have an entirely different impression on a different kaat, so to speak. However, I think it's safe to say that Charlize Theron is hot even with mud on her face and in baggy overalls. You GO, girl!

Josey Aimes is a single mother, has returned to her parents’ home after getting out of an abusive marriage (whew- big relief, there wasn’t a whole lot of that marriage shown before she left him- like three minutes in the beginning). It is 1989, days of mullets and feathered bangs and in Northern Minnesota, where the movie takes place, flannel shirts, same as today. Josey needs a job to support her two children, a sullen boy-almost-teen and a scruffy-haired daughter who looks to be about six. Her good friend tells her they are hiring women at The Mine, and Josey, with visions of bills-paid dancing in her head, goes for it. From the very get go, the women are made to understand that they are far less than welcomed in the hallowed halls of the taconite kingdom and there only because the Supreme Court said they had to be let in. All of them are subjected to crude innuendos, nasty practical jokes and endless come-ons. Josey, in particular, has trouble with an old “friend” from high school Billy, who seems to make her his personal sexual harassment project. These women, they are informed, are taking other peoples’ jobs, those men who are, of course, far more suited to the work and decidedly more deserving. From that point on, steam started gathering in my head, but let me say, there were a few scenes where I just about puked. Like when Josey is attacked on a pile of taconite pellets and groped viciously by the thug from her high school days. Or when another woman finds her sweatshirt covered in semen, tucked away as a nice surprise in her locker.

Josey takes them to court, despite the lack of support from the other, intimidated women mine workers, the downright hatred of the townspeople and the less-than-stellar behavior of her own father. It is frustrating watching her go through the motions, agonizing watching a few courtroom scenes, particularly when the father of her son is revealed to the world, and only knowing that this had to have a good ending made me stick it out to the end. It does….have a good ending. But the road is rough.

The movie is “based on a true story”. I always get curiosified when I see that in the spinning credits, so of course after I finished viewing, I had to go check out the “true story”. Turns out the actual case, Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Co. took about ten years, and it was 20 years after the actual harassment began that the women got their bit o’ justice. The so-called “Special Master” judge who was assigned to oversee the trial awarding moneys to the plaintiffs was a real prince, as you can see if you care to read the story. True story- those women went through a HELLUVALOTUV shit. The case, which became the first sexual harassment lawsuit in history to be given class action status, was originally filed in 1998, in my own home state, Minnesota. Creepier and creepier, this isn’t just my home state, this is my home turf…the Iron Range, like I could have actually known these people, nodded at them in the grocery store…seriously. I knew a lot of mine workers and yeah, they were all assholes. HA. Just kidding, there were a couple of good eggs in the bunch, but mostly, the big old cliché drawn of them in North Country is dead-on. Surly, ugly, mean, ruff and gruff chauvinists, yeah, them's the mineworkers. Slightly more disturbing to me was the fact that it seems that no one in northern Minnesota brushes their hair, based on what you see in North Country. Trust me, I always brushed my hair, even when I lived on Da Range. Annnd....I was a little disappointed in the lack of good Minnesota accents. The only one worth its lutefisk was that of Frances McDormand , who plays Josey’s friend and fellow miner, she of Fargo fame, and the very authentic Minnesota talk there, dontcha know. She did a great job in this movie too, as a character not only suffering the fools of the mine, but afflicted with Lou Gehrig’s disease as well. Sometimes, life sucks. This was a perfect picture of that fact.
I give it 4 out of 5 &'s...

& it was gripping
& you feel great empathy for the characters
& it's based on a true story
& she WINS in the end


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