North Country (film)


North Country (film)
North Country

Original poster
Directed by Niki Caro
Produced by Nick Wechsler
Written by Michael Seitzman
Based on Class Action by
Clara Bingham and Laura Leedy Gansler
Starring Charlize Theron
Frances McDormand
Richard Jenkins
Sissy Spacek
Woody Harrelson
Sean Bean
Michelle Monaghan
Jeremy Renner
Music by Gustavo Santaolalla
Cinematography Chris Menges
Editing by David Coulson
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) September 12, 2005 (2005-09-12) (TIFF)
October 21, 2005 (2005-10-21)
Running time 126 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $30 million
Box office $23,624,242

North Country is a 2005 American drama film directed by Niki Caro. The screenplay by Michael Seitzman was inspired by the 2002 book Class Action: The Story of Lois Jenson and the Landmark Case That Changed Sexual Harassment Law by Clara Bingham and Laura Leedy Gansler, which chronicled the case of Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Company.

Contents

Plot

In 1989, Josey, played by Charlize Theron, returns to her hometown in Northern Minnesota with her children, Sam (Thomas Curtis) and Karen (Elle Peterson), after escaping from her abusive husband. She moves in with her parents, Alice (Sissy Spacek) and Hank (Richard Jenkins). Hank is ashamed of Josey, who became pregnant at the age of 16, and believes that this was the result of Josey being promiscuous. The townspeople believe the same, which causes them not to allow Josey to blend in. Her only friends are Kyle Dodge (Sean Bean) and his wife Glory (Frances McDormand), who works at the local iron mines (the town's main source of income) and they promise to get Josey a job there. They also allow Josey to stay at their place with her children, due to Josey's bad relationship with her father.

Josey quickly befriends the other female workers at the mine, which include Glory, Sherry (Michelle Monaghan) and Big Betty (Rusty Schwimmer), and becomes the target of provocations spearheaded by Bobby Sharp (Jeremy Renner), Josey's high school boyfriend who also works at the mine. Her attempts to stop the provocations by reporting it to the mine's higher-up only worsen it, and soon all the women are being verbally and physically abused by men at the factory. Josey is also sexually harassed by many of them, including Bobby.

Josey's refusal in giving in on her male co-workers' demands causes them to spread lies about her being promiscuous and trying to seduce them, which cause Josey to be further segregated not only by her father and the men's wives, but also by Sam, who starts believing that his mother is indeed promiscuous after discovering that he was the result of her teenage pregnancy. After even the mine's board of directors refuses to hear Josey's complaints about the way women are treated at the mine, she quits and asks Bill White (Woody Harrelson), a friend of Kyle and Glory and also a lawyer – to help her file a lawsuit against the company. Bill tells her that the best way to win a case like this is by convincing the other women to back up her statements in court. The women, however, are hesitant, as this would mean risking their jobs, and refuse. Josey also discovers that Glory has ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), or Lou Gehrig's Disease.

Hank is disappointed by Josey's decision, and Alice leaves him, tired of hearing him criticizing their daughter for something that was not her fault. Hank later attends a union meeting. Josey appears, hoping to address the miners and explain her reasons for suing the mine. When they refuse to hear her and start verbally abusing her, Hank stands up for his daughter and reprimands his co-workers for their rude treatment of Josey and all the women at the factory.

At the court, the mine's lawyers attempt to hold Josey's so-called "promiscuous" past against her, and have Bobby Sharp testify on how Sam is the fruit of a relationship between Josey and one of her teachers. Josey then reveals the truth: When she and Bobby were 16, they were caught skipping class and kissing by their teacher and were forced to stay after class as punishment. When detention ended, Bobby left first to start up his car, intending to give Josey a ride. While he was away, Josey was attacked and raped by her teacher. Bobby witnessed the act and, unable to cope with the trauma, interpreted it as consensual sex. Josey got pregnant from the rape, but refused to abort the baby or give it away, and had Sam. This causes both him and her father to regret the way they treated her over the years.

The revelation of the true circumstances behind the event that led the entire town to judge and mistreat Josey causes several of the miners to repent for their actions and apologize. It also gives the women the courage they need, and they stand up, backing up Josey's claims about the harassment. With this, the mining company loses the case and is forced to pay the women for what they suffered, in addition to establishing a sexual harassment policy at the workplace. Josey, vindicated, thanks Bill for all that he has done for her and her family and departs to teach Sam how to drive, telling him that she intends to buy him a car on his 18th birthday.

Production notes

Lois Jenson, on whom the character of Josey is based, actually began working at the EVTAC mine in Eveleth, Minnesota in 1975 and initiated her lawsuit in 1984, four years before the year in which the film begins. Its time line was condensed, but in reality it took fourteen years for the case to be settled. Jenson declined to sell the rights to her story or act as the film's consultant.[1]

The film was shot in the towns of Eveleth, Virginia, and Chisholm in northern Minnesota; Minneapolis; and Silver City and Santa Fe in New Mexico.

The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and was shown at the Chicago International Film Festival before going into theatrical release in the US, where it grossed $6,422,455 in its opening weekend, ranking 5th at the box office.[2] Budgeted at $30 million, it eventually grossed $18,324,242 in the US and $5,300,000 in foreign markets for a total worldwide box office of $23,624,242.[3]

Soundtrack

  1. "North Country" by Gustavo Santaolalla – 2:08
  2. "Girl of the North Country" by Leo Kottke – 3:33
  3. "Tell Ol' Bill" by Bob Dylan – 5:08
  4. "Werewolves of London" by Warren Zevon – 3:28
  5. "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes – 3:49
  6. "If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body (Would You Hold It Against Me)" by The Bellamy Brothers – 3:17
  7. "Lay Lady Lay" by Bob Dylan – 3:19
  8. "A Saturday in My Classroom" by Gustavo Santaolalla – 3:46
  9. "Sweetheart Like You" by Bob Dylan – 4:37
  10. "Baby Don't Get Hooked on Me" by Mac Davis – 3:05
  11. "Do Right to Me Baby (Do Unto Others)" by Bob Dylan – 3:52
  12. "Standing Up" by Gustavo Santaolalla – 2:43
  13. "Paths of Victory" by Cat Power – 3:24

Songs in the movie that weren't in the soundtrack release include "Wasn't That a Party" by The Irish Rovers, "Shake the House Down" by Molly Hatchet and karaoke versions of George Thorogood's "I Drink Alone" and Pat Benatar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot."

Principal cast

Critical reception

On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 69% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 162 reviews.[4] On Metacritic, the film has an average score of 68 out of 100, based on 39 reviews.[5]

Manohla Dargis of the New York Times called it "a star vehicle with heart – an old-fashioned liberal weepie about truth and justice" and added, "[It] is one of those Hollywood entertainments that strive to tell a hard, bitter story with as much uplift as possible. That the film works as well as it does, delivering a tough first hour only to disintegrate like a wet newspaper, testifies to the skill of the filmmakers as well as to the constraints brought on them by an industry that insists on slapping a pretty bow on even the foulest truth."[6]

In his review in the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert observed, "North Country is one of those movies that stir you up and make you mad, because it dramatizes practices you've heard about but never really visualized. We remember that Frances McDormand played a woman police officer in this same area in Fargo, and we value that memory, because it provides a foundation for Josey Aimes. McDormand's role in this movie is different and much sadder, but brings the same pluck and common sense to the screen. Put these two women together (as actors and characters) and they can accomplish just about anything. Watching them do it is a great movie experience."[7]

Ruthe Stein of the San Francisco Chronicle called the film a "compelling if occasionally unnecessarily convoluted movie . . . The first 15 minutes or so are a mess . . . Fortunately, [it] calms down and becomes extremely engrossing, especially in the courtroom battles . . . it's all carefully calculated for dramatic effect and succeeds brilliantly in drawing you in and eliciting tears in the process . . . North Country would have benefited from crisper editing. It runs at least 15 minutes longer than necessary . . . For all its flaws, [it] delivers an emotional wallop and a couple of performances worthy of recognition come award time."[8]

In Rolling Stone, Peter Travers awarded the film two out of a possible four stars and commented, "Any similarities between Josey and Lois Jenson, the real woman who made Eveleth Mines pay for their sins in a landmark 1988 class-action suit, are purely coincidental. Instead, we get a TV-movie fantasy of female empowerment glazed with soap-opera theatrics. The actors, director Niki Caro (Whale Rider) and the great cinematographer Chris Menges all labor to make things look authentic. But a crock is a crock, despite the ferocity and feeling Theron brings to the role . . . Though the dirt and grime in North Country are artfully applied, it's purely cosmetic and skin-deep."[9]

In "Stories from North Country," a documentary accompanying the film on the DVD, Lois Jenson, on whom the story is based, said, "I think it's important for people to see this." Regarding Charlize Theron, Jenson said, "She has the character. [...] She knew the part. She knew what it needed – the depth she needed to go to. She's done a great job with it."

David Rooney of Variety said, "[It] indulges in movie-ish manipulation in its climactic courtroom scenes. But it remains an emotionally potent story told with great dignity, to which women especially will respond . . . The film represents a confident next step for lead Charlize Theron. Though the challenges of following a career-redefining Oscar role have stymied actresses, Theron segues from Monster to a performance in many ways more accomplished . . . The strength of both the performance and character anchor the film firmly in the tradition of other dramas about working-class women leading the fight over industrial workplace issues, such as Norma Rae or Silkwood."[10]

In the St. Petersburg Times, Steve Persall graded the film A and called it "deeply, undeniably moving . . . crusader cinema at its finest."[11]

Awards and nominations

See also

References

  1. ^ "A victim rises up," ''St. Petersburg Times'', October 20, 2005. Sptimes.com. Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
  2. ^ ''North Country'' at. Boxofficemojo.com (2005-10-21). Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
  3. ^ ''North Country'' at TheNumbers.com. The-numbers.com. Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
  4. ^ ''North Country at Rotten Tomatoes.com. Rottentomatoes.com. Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
  5. ^ ''North Country'' at. Metacritic.com. Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
  6. ^ Dargis, Manohla. (2005-10-21) review. New York Times. Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
  7. ^ ''Chicago Sun-Times'' review. Rogerebert.suntimes.com. Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
  8. ^ ''San Francisco Chronicle'' review. Sfgate.com (2005-10-21). Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
  9. ^ ''Rolling Stone'' review. Rollingstone.com (2005-10-20). Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
  10. ^ Rooney, David. (2005-09-12) ''Variety'' review. Variety. Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
  11. ^ "A Victim Rises Up". St. Petersburg Times (USA). Retrieved on July 8, 2011.

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