North Country (DVD) (WS)
Academy Award winner Charlize Theron (Monster) teams with Niki Caro, the award-winning screenwriter and director of Whale Rider, for this fictionalized version of the first successful legal prosecution of a sexual-harassment case in the United States. After fleeing from her abusive husband, young mother Josey Aimes (Theron) returns home to Minnesota, where she finds work in the iron mines. Josey refuses to endure the frequent sexual innuendoes and unwelcome physical contact that her male co-workers inflict on the women. When her complaints to the mine owners fall on deaf ears, Josey seeks a legal remedy, becoming the key plaintiff in a class action lawsuit that leads to the first sexual harassment ruling in United States judicial history.
A sterling cast and vivid direction give North Country
an emotional heft to match its political convictions. Charlize Theron (Monster
) plays Josey Aimes, who goes to work at a Minnesota steel mine after splitting with her violent husband.
Frances McDormand and Charlize
Theron in North Country.
But the job proves to be almost as harrowing as her marriage; the male miners, resentful of women taking jobs, verbally abuse and play humiliating pranks on the female miners. After being physically assaulted by a coworker, Josey tries to fight against the harassment, but none of the other women will join her case for fear that things will only get worse. North Country
, directed by Niki Caro (Whale Rider
), makes the women's experience palpable for the audience without overdoing it. But the lawsuit is only part of the movie; the gut impact of North Country
comes from the devastating effect the lawsuit has on Josey's family, friends, and coworkers--thanks to an incredible ensemble cast that includes Sissy Spacek (In the Bedroom
), Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings
), Richard Jenkins (Six Feet Under
), Woody Harrelson (The People vs. Larry Flynt
), and the always powerful Frances McDormand (Fargo
, Mississippi Burning
). The courtroom histrionics don't always ring true, but the family conflict is riveting and deeply moving. Based on the book Class Action: The Story of Lois Jenson and the Landmark Case That Changed Sexual Harassment Law. --Bret Fetzer