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Thursday, July 20, 2006

North Country — Movie Review

North Country offers a fictionalized version of the story behind the first class-action sexual-harassment lawsuit in the United States. Certainly an important story that deserved to be told, the movie just didn’t offer much that truly stood out.

When word gets out that the local mine is hiring women, Josey Aimes (Charlize Theron) decides to ignore the warnings against it and applies for a job offering significantly more than the single mother of two was making. Along with a hand full of other women, she endures everything from insults to threats to attacks from her male counterparts at the Minnesota mine. Even her father, who also works at the mine, wishes she had passed up the better pay. Despite everything, Aimes decides to fight back.

I don’t know if the story was too predictable, there was too much other drama in Aimes’ life, or what, but there was little to get revved up about with this movie. The harassment was real and constant, but I just felt like the men were losers from an area that was probably behind the times. (The film was set in the 1980s.) They were too easy to dismiss (for viewers, of course), as opposed to truly wanting them to suffer the consequences of their actions. In fact, most of the plot lines equated to men treating women badly. The same message over and over simply lost its impact.

The one exception to this was the lawyer, Bill White (Woody Harrelson), who pushes Aimes to get the other women to join her in a class-action suit because it was the only real chance to win. While it was good to see Harrelson in a regular-guy role, the character wasn’t quite enough to offer the movie needed depth. Aimes’ father, played by Richard Jenkins, eventually wakes up and supports his daughter. But, again, it just didn’t offer enough balance to film.

Possibly another problem was the location of the film &mdash the Minnessota mines. It’s such a specific locale and lifestyle that connecting to the situation was difficult. There wasn’t enough to relate to.

One of the DVD extras showed interviews with the real women of the lawsuit, and their reactions to the film. A rare worthwhile extra, it put more of a human face to their struggles.

While telling a story that needed to be told, North Country struggles as a film. You may want to watch it while looking for something better.

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