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Overall Rating

Awesome: 10.34%
Worth A Look: 43.1%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

7 reviews, 16 user ratings

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North Country
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by William Goss

"I Am Woman, Hear Me Sue"
3 stars

Rape and abuse are wrong. They both exist as terrible and inexcusable acts that cause real pain and suffering to their victims. It should be as simple as that. But not in 'North Country.'

Though based on the true landmark case of sexual harassment against a Minnesota coal mine in 1984, the film appears dedicated to exploiting every opportunity to put women in a vulnerable and sympathetic position while constantly portraying men as inhumane and chauvinistic beings. Josey Aimes (Charlize Theron), fleeing her abusive husband, moves her family up to northern Minnesota and joins her friend, Glory (Frances McDormand), working at a coal mine, where she soon becomes subject to constant sexual advances and degradation. Working with a local lawyer, she decides to launch a class action suit against the mine.

Theron is more than capable as she adds yet another victim role to her resume. McDormand’s character, however appealing, soon falls victim herself to an unsurprising character arc, and Woody Harrelson does all right for himself as the down-and-out lawyer (as if there’s any other kind). Sean Bean turns in some nice, if brief, work as Glory’s husband, and Sissy Spacek basically stays on the sidelines as Josey’s concerned mother. If there’s one actor that stands out, it would be Richard Jenkins, as Josey’s dad who, initially stubborn at the prospect of having his daughter as a colleague, comes to her side when she is alone in her fight. His change of heart, however expected, evokes the most genuine response of the entire cast.

While the performances are strong, they fail to rise above the melodramatic material. The entire third act revolves around Josey’s courtroom testimony, which soon becomes more about her son’s biological father than about the actual mine harassment. It boggles me how her sexual history relates to her case against poor treatment at work, and the sequence only seems to exist in order to provide a lengthy flashback of a sexual assault in her teenage years, bringing morale down just in time for a typical ‘stand-up-for-your-rights’ climax. That’s the film’s biggest hurdle: for the most part, it’s trying too hard to be manipulative. The woman-as-victim path has been taken so many times before, and this movie fails to flesh out the roles much past a one-note battle of the sexes, with women as the constant underdogs. Men and women are reduced to callous pigs and suffering victims, and very few characters fall outside those parameters.

Though the ensemble is decent overall, they cannot conquer the film’s intent to stack on stale clichés, tug on the audience’s heartstrings, and then some. How viewers feel about a hearty helping of glorified Lifetime fare will decide whether or not a trip to 'North Country' will be worth their while.

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originally posted: 10/25/05 16:59:55
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Chicago Film Festival For more in the 2005 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Vancouver Film Festival For more in the 2005 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/03/10 MP Bartley Powerful in parts, but shamelessly and grubbily obvious. 3 stars
8/29/08 Shaun Wallner Interesting storyline. 4 stars
4/25/07 nancie belianne i enjoyed this film dispite some disturbing scenes. 3 stars
12/13/06 galaxy its a nice movie... 4 stars
11/07/06 Alexis Brilliant acting, kudos to Frances McDormand, fairly watered down for a 'true story' 4 stars
6/30/06 Phil M. Aficionado Stick to the book or make a documentary. Why waste good acting this kind of thing? 3 stars
2/23/06 ES Sad, didn't buy Woody as the lawyer but a worth while watch 4 stars
12/18/05 ownerofdajoint Treron is great as the victim of our corporate slavemasters total domination 5 stars
11/07/05 Rocha Ana This movie made me feel mad. 4 stars
11/07/05 Nancy Stanina Contrary to the reviews views, these things did happen and are still happening some places 5 stars
10/31/05 Jeff Unbelievable film, Inspiring, One of the best ever 5 stars
10/27/05 Michael Kondo A very good and moving movie, a must see 5 stars
10/23/05 baseball-nut This is a very good flick ... a must buy movie if you liked Norma Rae! 5 stars
9/29/05 E. Northam An accurate & ugly indictment of the plight of sexually harrassed women at a mining site. 4 stars
9/14/05 Matt Parker A Hollywood picture with the naturalistic, emotional signature of Niki Caro... 5 stars
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  21-Oct-2005 (R)
  DVD: 21-Feb-2006

  03-Feb-2006 (15)

  02-Feb-2006 (MA)

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