Sunday, April 09, 2006

North Country

2005, US, directed by Niki Caro

Notwithstanding a strong echo of the 1983 film Silkwood, North Country is an engrossing, well-acted account of one woman's wrenching battle against a big company - in this case a mine in rural Minnesota where women are a rarity on the workforce; those few women are subjected to the most extreme of sexual harassment on a daily basis. Charlize Theron plays Josey Aimes, whose response to the catalog of harassment is, ultimately, to file a lawsuit (which becomes a class action). The film is a loose fictionalization of a case that took over a decade to settle (and whose origins go back to the mid-1970's), and it's a powerful indictment of an especially egregious environment of harassment, although the legal decision helped women in thousands of less openly hostile places of employment. Theron does excellent work in the lead role; she's as convincing here as she was in the even lower-rent role that won her an Oscar in Monster, while getting to play someone a whole lot more sympathetic. As is so often the case in depictions of rural America, the supporting cast is outstanding, with great smaller turns from Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in particular. New Zealand director Niki Caro shows herself to have a keen sense of the particularities of this slice of American life, too, even though it's a less obviously personal film than her compelling Whale Rider.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States