Saturday, June 03, 2006

DVD: North Country


This is the story of the first sexual harrasment class action lawsuit in the US and that alone made it worth watching. However, the film squandered its promise by attempting to manipulate our emotions with almost non-stop harassment scenes, which is not unilke how many people viewed the Oscar winner Crash. The lack of nuance surprised me, given how the film started out and the importance of telling this story. As one of the extra features in the DVD explains, women were working at the mine before, but it's when the young women began to work there, that the harassment became more prevalent.

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Single mom Josey Aimes returns to her hometown, a mining town, to stay with her parents and escape an abusive relationship. She ends up taking a job at the mine, and quickly becomes the victim of sexual harassment, along with another new young female recruit. It's relentless and unbearable but also quite surprising considering that her father also works at the mine. What men would deliberately bother the daughter of one of their co-workers?

Charlize Theron's performance is excellent. Frances McDormand and Sean Bean play small roles as a couple who are friends of Josey's. Woody Harrelson shows up as a local buy made hockey hero, then lawyer but the film doesn't shed much light on this interesting character. We know that he's single and not seeking another relationship at the time, but that's about it. Richard Jenkins plays her seemingly cold, dour father, and puts in a terrific performance. Sissy Spacek doesn't play a big role in the film as her mother, but the scenes where she fails to support her daughter hit hard.

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In one of the most gripping scenes, Josey addresses a meeting of the union members, who are openly hostile. Charlize Theron said that it was so intimating to do that when she was speaking and shaking, it wasn't acting at all.

By being zealous about showing us how the women's rights have been violated, the film's preaching ends up being it's weakness. I would have enjoyed this film more if they toned down the harassment scenes and focused more on character development. Like Under The Tuscan Sun, I had a feeling that this film was directed by a woman. Sure enough, the director was Niki Caro, best known for directing Whale Rider.

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