*1/2 (out of 5)
October 21, 2005
Charlize Theron as JOSEY AIMES
Elle Peterson as KAREN AIMES
Thomas Curtis as SAMMY AIMES
Frances McDormand as GLORY
Sean Bean as KYLE
Woody Harrelson as BILL WHITE
Jeremy Renner as BOBBY SHARP
Richard Jenkins as HANK AIMES
Sissy Spacek as ALICE AIMES
Studio: New Line Cinema
Directed by: Niki Caro
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
“North Country” is about as subtle as a sledgehammer. It has a MESSAGE! And that message is simply this: men are pigs.
Oh sure, it’s a drama about a landmark sexual harassment case, but it’s really about how men – all men – are pigs. If I lived in northern Minnesota, I’d be pissed as hell about this film. It really makes that area of the country look like a raging pit of sexism and hatred. Kudos to the governor for pulling the film’s tax breaks.
“North Country” tells the fictionalized story of a woman who gets a job at a steel mill in Northern Minnesota. Like “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” the facts of this case (including the names of the people and businesses involved) have all been changed. The woman in the film is Josey Aimes, played by Charlize Theron in a not-so-subtle grab at another Oscar nom.
Josey joins the mining team and is met with sexism, insults, anger and assaults on the first day. After several months at the mine, she hooks up with a lawyer from out of town and decides to file a sexual harassment suit against the company.
In the press notes, director Niki Caro says that most of the men at the mine were good people and the harassment was perpetrated by only a select few. It’s too bad she never made a point to put that in the movie. Practically every man in the film, with the exception of Aimes’ lawyer and her best friend’s husband, is part of this harassment conspiracy.
The portrayal of men in general in this film is simply appalling. In one scene, Josey comes to a union meeting to speak her piece. The crowd rallies against her like something out of an old “Frankenstein” horror movie. I kept expecting them to grab pitchforks and torches and chase her into a castle. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so offensive.
Of course all of this is okay. It’s okay to be sexist in film today, as long as it’s politically correct and only sexist against men. I, however, believe that both sides should be treated fairly. It’s too bad that in such a progressive society that not everyone thinks this way.
The real shame of “North Country” is that there was fertile ground to tell a compelling story. The facts of the real case are pretty astounding, but they don’t make the insurmountable one-sided framework of a dramatic film. I guess the truth was a little too complicated for Niki Caro.
Caro could have really put together a compelling drama. But she resorted to strawman scapegoats and some of the most ridiculous courtroom action I’ve ever seen in a film. I’m not a legal expert by any stretch of the imagination, and I fully understand the need for Hollywood to make things more exciting than real life. But I’ve seen better courtroom work on “General Hospital.”
At the very least, I expect any courtroom drama to adhere to the faux rules of “Law and Order.” But “North Country” can’t even follow the rule of law as set down by Hollywood itself. They just make things up as it goes along, and it’s almost embarrassing to watch.
Most likely Charlize Theron will get some nominations from this film, but I thought her performance was pretty uninspired. She just marked time through the film, as if she was expecting the nominations regardless of how she acted. While I liked her in “Monster,” I do long for the days when she was just another pretty face. Give me “Aeon Flux” any day over this mess of movie that is “North Country.”