When Josey Aimes (Academy Award winner CHARLIZE THERON) returns to her hometown in Northern Minnesota after a failed marriage, she needs a good job. A single mother with two children to support, she turns to the predominan... more »t source of employment in the region - the iron mines. The mines provide a livelihood that has sustained a community for generations. The work is hard but the pay is good and friendships that form on the job extend into everyday life, bonding families and neighborhoods with a common thread. DVD Features:
Keith H. from LIVERMORE, CA Reviewed on 9/1/2014...
Outstanding acting by a deep cast that gets the tone and simmering emotions just right in this "based on a true story". Frances mc dormand "and and sissy spacek are superb!
1 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Amy B. (pureprarieleague) from TERRELL, TX Reviewed on 11/11/2009...
True Story that will really tug your heartstrings, Frances McDormand gives an Oscar worthy performance!
0 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
What led into the first sexual harassment class action lawsu
Joe Sherry | Minnesota | 10/24/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I really hate the tagline of North Country. "All she wanted to do was make a living. Instead she made history." It's terrible and doesn't at all capture what North Country is. Well, I suppose on one hand it does because that ultimately is the storyline of the movie but it's a tagline that makes me want to run away rather than buy a ticket. But enough about that.
North Country is based on actual events at the Eveleth Mines in Minnesota's Iron Range. Women were first allowed into the mines in the late 1970's and the stories that North Country deals with occurred all throughout the 80's and into the first class action sexual harassment lawsuit in the early 1990's. Director Niki Caro (Whale Rider) spoke with some of the women miners and had one, Lynn Sterle as an advisor for the film.
Charlize Theron plays Josey Aimes, a fictionalized character who comes to work at the Pearson Taconite mine where her father works and where her friend Glory (Frances McDormand) works driving truck. Josey is trying to raise her two children after leaving her husband and the mine will pay six times what she was making elsewhere. Glory tells her that Josey is going to have to deal with taunts and crude behavior and that the men do not want them at the mine. She believes, but she doesn't know. From the first moment she steps foot into the mine it becomes clear just how little they are wanted. The HR representative tells the new women that he doesn't want them there and if it wasn't for the Supreme Court, he wouldn't have hired them. But he'll give them a tour anyway and show them what the work is. The other workers call them crude names and Glory warns Josey that she may find degrading things in their lunch pails. Names are written on walls and lewd drawings are made. In general, the women are not made to feel welcome even though they are also members of the same union with the same rights as the men. But this is a boy's club and women are not welcome.
Josey complains to HR and he tells her that nothing will happen. She continues to complain about the behavior and things get worse. Much worse. They are threatened, attacked, degraded and I can only believe that what is shown in the movie is only scratching the surface as to what really went on in the mine. Finally Josey has had enough and finds a lawyer (Woody Harrelson) and decides to sue. But even the women are not supportive.
North Country mixes Josey's experience at the mine with footage from the lawsuit (preliminary hearings is my guess as it wasn't yet class action) and also makes the connection with Josey's story with the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings that were going on at the same time.
This is a moving film that deals with an incredibly ugly subject matter. One would think that by the 1990's such behavior would not occur and that it wouldn't be put up with, but it did. The movie itself is well acted by Theron and the supporting cast. In particular the other women miners do a great job in showing toughness in the face of such degradation and why they would not want to speak up and how they can deal with the harassment.
Well made, well acted. I don't feel that North Country was especially manipulative. All film is manipulative and has a viewpoint and an agenda. The questions are: does the movie work? Is it any good? Does it feel true? Yes, to all. North Country is not a feel good movie by any measure and it isn't one that I can really say I enjoyed, but I enjoy any good movie and in that sense I did.
Some may feel that this is nothing more than Oscar bait with the poor woman overcoming degradation and rising to accomplish something big, and that it is touching the buttons that need to be touched to get awards...but that does not lessen the fact that the movie is rather good and that Theron will deserve whatever nominations she receives or awards she wins. She does an excellent job as does Niki Caro, Frances McDormand and the other actors. The movie only hits one note that felt like too much (what happened to Glory), but even that isn't a major point against it. Just something that felt off. It's the only thing that comes to mind."
Flannel Shirts Instead of Skirts
D. Mikels | Skunk Holler | 11/14/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"NORTH COUNTRY is as chilling a story as the climate of northern Minnesota. We are told this movie is based on a true story--a landmark sexual harassment case that revolutionized corporate policy pertaining to gender equality nationwide. Disgusted and put out with the relentless, abusive, even violent treatment by her male coworkers (and superiors) in the male-dominated ore mining industry, single mom Josey Aimes (played wonderfully by Charlize Theron) dares to rock the boat by filing a lawsuit against her employer. It's a story that's been told a million times before--of one individual fighting fearlessly, even futilely, against the insurmountable odds of the corrupt status quo--yet NORTH COUNTRY succeeds admirably by virtue of its stellar cast and compelling plot.
Returning to her hometown after her marriage goes on the fritz, Josey dares to seek employment at the local strip mine, where the work is brutal, but the working conditions even more so. Her best friend, Glory (Frances McDormand), is a coworker--even the sole female union rep; Glory advises Josey to go with the flow, let the crude comments and sick jokes roll off one's back, but in due time, the "jokes" become malevolent, the pranks vicious, the work environment dangerous, intolerable. Josey files a grievance with the president of the company; his response is to pressure her to tender her resignation. Convinced she is "in the right," that she must fight, Josey enlists the aid of local attorney Bill White (Woody Harrelson, who in middle age has become magnificently bulldog ugly), and the first-ever class action sexual harassment suit is filed. The subsequent courtroom drama is uneven, often off topic (having to deal with an alleged rape in Josey's past), yet still riveting.
Sean Bean, Sissy Spacek, and Jeremy Renner are three jewels that head an outstanding supporting cast, but special kudos go to Richard Jenkins as Josey's brooding father. Hank Aimes, a longtime employee of the mine, has been estranged from his daughter since she gave birth out of wedlock as a teenager. He is opposed to her taking a job at his company, and as the pranks and sick jokes escalate, he remains silent. Yet once his daughter addresses his union brethren--alone and very much afraid--he comes to Josey's defense in fine fashion. Made me proud to be a papa.
Told from the perspective of the early 1990s, NORTH COUNTRY tells its story, and as good as its story is, it still left me scratching my head. Back in those days, I, too, was in a male-dominated industry (executive of a trucking company). Following the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas culture storm, followed by passage of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), we certainly saw the writing on the wall, and instantly adopted sexual harassment policies and walked on eggshells to make sure harassment or wrongful termination claims were never brought to bear against us. So I find it intriguing, to say the least, that in such a climate this particular mining employer was so callous and insensitive. As the old adage goes, this company was cruisin' for a bruisin', and in the Great White North, you get ice cubes with that. --D. Mikels, Author, WALK-ON"
Great melodrama about women's life working as miners.
Ignacio Litardo | Capital, Buenos Aires, Argentina | 03/09/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I loved this film, which made me empathize for the characters.
Maybe the strongest scene was when Josey reads her defense in the miner's union, I guess that was her tougher ordeal. Some details are just great, like the decoration. For instance, the naked woman calendar on the wall of her HR superior's desk, the one that should take her complaints... Or the boss' attitude, chivalrous at first, but aggressively patronizing later, when $ was at stake. Her coworker "Sherry"/ Michelle Monaghan is the image of vulnerability, I just can't believe some of her scenes were cut out!! Remember her at the trailer, with her mum.
It's interesting how women were indifferent if not outright hostile to her, instead of acting in their own best interest. As the scene when they shift conversation to cosmetics, ironically, to take away the mine's dust. In contrast to the camaraderie and welcome jokes, and their singing at the bar. Frances McDormand is great, a perfect actress. Nobody escapes from machismo and conventionality, definitely nor her father and son. But neither her mum, nor Sherry (ex: "Are you gay?" scene with Harrelson at the bar). No male defends her, not even the "friendly/ humane" good guy (and balding :) ). Anybody who has lived in the countryside ("interior" in Spanish) knows how it is like: the daytime parties with too much food, replaced by strong drinks at night. Even the kind of music, obliged social gathering (Hockey, in this case), gossip is everybody's business, a way of life. "Tradition" = Conservatism.
Bill White/ Harrelson's cynical lawyer was fine (fun how Americans obsess with alcohol as a sign of "Decadence" :) ). Like when he took the case for: "it was never done before" = Not for her or "the cause": "Can you live with that?". But, although pragmatically, he turned the case by provoking "Bobby Sharp" (Dickensian name!)/ Jeremy Renner, the most disgusting character of the whole film to my taste. You only have to see him to know he's "up to no good". Sean Bean's "hard man-to-man" talk to his son was brilliant, a low-key masterpiece. Probably that was a turning point in the film, when Josey's family life really starts to get straight. The "first decent meal" and "first dingy house" are, again, only understandable by someone who has lived through it. The tagline, for once, isn't misleading. She's not "a heroine", instead she's an ordinary woman forced to take extraordinary measures. The essence of epic, I guess. Why associate "epic genre" with men!?!
Men like Sharp seem to be blind to the "signs" that people give to say "no", the signature of sociopaths according to Daniel Goleman in EI. That's the whole point of the movie: "what do you do when you're surrounded by people who are so accustomed to mistreating each other". So much that they'll blame the victim, to the point of distorting the facts, all for the sake of the "herd". The dialogue between Bobby and Kyle at the bar was just great, "philosophical". As the mumbled joke What is this, a "pet cemetery?" :)! (Related to his role in "Natural born killers"?). I also learn in that scene that the saying "you don't ... where you eat" is not Spanish but, I'm afraid, "Universal"... Her mum Alice/ Spacek does act correctly at the right moments: giving her some $ x the kids while her daughter was unemployed: "I'm still your mum" and "leaving" her husband when he was a real ass. But, in general, she's not very SYMPATHETIC, when she justifies Josey's beating husband, reminding her of their legal status, or turning off the TV when showing the timely "Anita Hill" trial.
Images are great, specially the aerial shots of the mine, not far away from Dickens's Coketown (Hard Times). Music is good too, not only the one composed by the Argentinean Gustavo Santaolalla.
As the Amazon reviewer "Joe Sherry" says: "it doesn't matter if it's manipulative, as long as the film works". I just couldn't agree more! I agree that things must have been way worse down there, and that one may enjoy a film even if it doesn't provide a conventional "good time". Also great: "She believes, but she doesn't know". But, unlike him, I still don't really get why her coworkers were so narrow minded...
On the other hand, the other "spotlight review" (D. Mikels's) contains two SPOILERS... luckily by now I skip reviewer's stuff until AFTER I have seen a movie... Can't you do something about it? Look at how Sherry "says without saying" when he writes: "what happened to Glory". Was it THAT hard, review's editor?
In contrast, NYT's helpful reader reviewer is from Eveleth (where the film took place), so I think his/her words should close this review: "It's a tough place to grow up in but a beautiful place to visit. For now I will always be a tourist (...)".
I can think of no better film to celebrate the international women's day, when so much has changed, but so much remains the same. Enjoy!
Forget the Critics...
DeeDee | Midwest | 03/19/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"who bashed this film because they must have been on prescription drugs. This film will make you angry with the way grown men used to get away with anything, and the way they can behave like idiots, not just the male miners and mine owners but the way Josie's father blames her for her husband's abusiveness. My husband and I watched it together and even he got disgusted with the middle-school pranks the male miners played on the women. The flashback rape scene was poignant while disturbing but this entire film made me appreciate the sexual harassment policies every employer now has (that I never before thought about). The women this film was based on were trailblazers for the rest of us. Worth It."
Powerful Acting Lifts Film
thornhillatthemovies.com | Venice, CA United States | 10/26/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Minnesota, 1990. Josey Aimes (Charlize Theron) has been beaten up by her husband one too many times. She bundles up her son, Sammy (Thomas Curtis) and her daughter, Karen (Elle Peterson), both from different fathers, and drives back to her parent's home. Her father, Hank (Richard Jenkins) is less than thrilled to see them, but her mom, Alice (Sissy Spacek) welcomes them with open arms. After a few days, Josey learns from her friend, Glory (Frances McDormand) that the big Iron mine, where the majority of the town and her father works, is hiring. Josey needs the money - the mine pays six times what she makes as a hair salon shampoo woman - so she applies and instantly realizes that there is a big problem; sexual harassment is rampant. The other woman will do nothing to stop it because they are fearful of retaliation and losing their jobs. Josie is finally pushed too far and turns to Bill White (Woody Harrelson), a former Hockey Player turned lawyer, to help her sue the mine.
"North Country", directed by Niki Caro ("Whale Rider"), is `inspired by true events'. This means that there was an actual sexual harassment case brought to court by a woman working at a mine in Minnesota, but all of the names have been changed, allowing the filmmakers some dramatic license. That case would change the landscape of the workplace throughout the country.
Thank goodness. If even half of what is portrayed in this film actually happened, the men in this mine were pigs. They don't look kindly on the women for `taking jobs that aren't there to take', meaning they think that the women are taking jobs away from other men. This is always such a bad argument that it is a wonder it always resurfaces in some form or another.
Any film with Frances McDormand ("Fargo") and Sissy Spacek ("In the Bedroom") joining the recently minted Theron is going to be at least interesting. "North County" is a lot better because of these three actresses.
Theron ("Monster") is very good as Josey, a fairly typical character in this type of film, but there is an underlying force, brought by the actress, making her a little electrifying, a little more interesting. Her domestic life hasn't been wonderful. Josey had Sammy when she was 16. Karen's father is the guy who beats up on her. When she finds she needs to return home to her parents, her Dad asks her "Where you cheating on him?" looking for a reason for him beating his daughter. Life at the mine is no cakewalk either. She realizes that she shouldn't have to put up with the harassment, but she does because she doesn't want to create waves for her father or the other women who work there. When she finally does decide to sue the mine, their lawyer brings up her past, which ultimately works against them. She also has a difficult time with Sammy, a typical pre-teen and subject to the peer pressure that most kids his age have to put up with. When Josey begins to make waves, many people, men and women, begin to fear what a possible lawsuit could do to their livelihood. They call her names, won't let their sons pass to Sammy during a hockey game and the like. Naturally, he takes it out on her and their already rocky relationship hits a new low. But Josey, like a lot of women, will do anything for her kids. Basically, Josey just wants to be able to work. When she finds this impossible due to all of the sexual harassment, and her job is on the line, she decides to take them to court. Theron's performance is the centerpiece of the film and it is always believable. We get a sense that this woman actually lived; perhaps Theron is basing the character on someone she knows, because it is very good.
Frances McDormand is, as always, good. Her character, Glory, seems tailor made for an Academy Award nomination. Glory ultimately proves to be the lynchpin to Josey's case and she has a physical problem that develops fairly quickly. Both of these elements are like sugar to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. To the group who picks the Oscars, the only thing better than someone standing up against a large institution is someone who gets sick while standing up against a large institution. But throughout, McDormand doesn't seem to realize that her character is like candy to the Academy's baby. She works very hard to make her character credible and real. And she succeeds. The best part of her character is her relationship with Kyle (Sean Bean). Kyle used to work at the mine until he hurt his back. Now he stays at home and repairs watches while his partner, Glory, works at the mine driving trucks and participating in the union. Their relationship is very interesting, very modern and completely believable.
Sissy Spacek and Richard Jenkins are very believable as Josey's parents. Very old school, Hank immediately assumes it's the wife's fault every time his daughter has a problem. He doesn't want her to work at the mine, because she is a woman. Hank initially serves as our personal filter to the male persona so pervasive throughout his workplace. Spacek's Alice has always been a stay at home mom. In her world, the husband goes off to work and earns the money; the woman stays at home and tends to the house. She seems to support some of the awkward views her husband expresses, making them all the more horrific. Later, as the story develops, as she realizes what Josey has gone through, she begins to adopt more modern views, forcing her husband to do the same. Again, we have seen this type of situation in many films and television shows, but the actor and director work in a reserved manner to make the performances believable.
Niki Caro's second film, "North Country" explores many of the same issues of her critically acclaimed debut "Whale Rider". Both films tell the story of a strained relationship between father and daughter; both films depict a community uneasy with the protagonist's actions. The community depicted in "North Country" is even fairly insular, as the New Zealand village is in "Whale". Niki Caro seems to bring a lot of heart and emotion to the characters in her films, whether it is a small fishing village in New Zealand or a small town in Northern Minnesota. Really, the biggest difference between the two films is the climate.
"North Country" is a very good film depicting another sad moment in our country's history. "