North Country

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North Country
Review (5/10)
(By Liam Cullin)


North Country stars Academy Award winner Charlize Theron as Josey Aimes, a woman who leaves her abusive husband and heads back home to Northern Minnesota with her two kids to live with her parents (Richard Jenkins and Academy Award winner Sissy Spacek) and start over. Unfortunately, starting over working in a beauty shop isn't going to pay the bills or feed her kids, so Josey takes the advice of her friend Glory (Academy Award winner Frances McDormand) and gets a job at the local mine. Things are going well. She makes friends. Earns some cash. Gets drunk on weekends. Buys a house. The only thing she doesn't have is the respect of the men in her life, namely her father, her son and most of her male co-workers. They smear shit all over the walls of the women's change room. They call her every name in the book, including a slut, a whore, a bitch and a cunt. And it's not just Josey. It's every woman at the mine. Yeah, it's not pretty. And the more she fights back against this harrassment, the more she and her co-workers are subject to their ridicule. Finally, when she can't take it anymore, Josey quits and brings a sexual harrassment lawsuit against the mine. However, since it's her word only against the mine, the other women have to find it within themselves to rise above their male oppressors and change the American legal landscape forever. Woody Harrelson and Sean Bean also star.

Featuring a cast of three Academy Award winners including Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand and Sissy Spacek, you'd think you were in for some strong female performances. Especially in a movie dealing with sexual harrassment against women. I'm not trying to sound like a sexist or anything, but the women here just didn't do it for me. I didn't buy Charlize Theron. Normally, if I were to say her performance was effortless, that'd be a compliment. But not here. Any number of other actresses could've pulled it off in their sleep. And Frances McDormand is good -- just not great. The only one that's remotely decent is Sissy Spacek, and although her role is somewhat pivitol, it just isn't that big a part of the movie.

For me, it was the guys in this movie that made it really good. Richard Jenkins as Josey's disapproving father was heartbreaking. In particular, his speech towards the end of the movie just tugged at my heartstrings. As a father myself, I could see myself in his shoes. And Sean Bean as Glory's husband. He provided a great understated performance, and again, his own speech to Josey's son towards the end of the movie was great. As for Woody Harrelson. Well, he could've been better.

And the story? Like the actresses here, I just didn't see it being anything special or unique. Sure, it's based on a true story, and I feel bad for these women, but the movie just brought up thoughts of several other against-all-odds courtroom dramas (ie. A Civil Action) and stories of women and unions (ie. Norma Rae). The whole thing has a been-there-done-that feel to it.

There's been talk of another Academy Award for Charlize Theron for ugly-ing it up again in North Country. (She previously won for her virtually unrecognizable performance in Monster.) Myself, I could really only see this happening if there aren't any other strong female roles out there this awards season. If anything, keep an eye on Richard Jenkins in the Supporting Actor category.

(One other thing to watch out for. At the beginning of the movie, Josey works as a hair stylist. Ask yourself this... If she worked as a hair stylist, why was her own hair so ugly for the whole movie?)

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