North Country (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Niki Caro|
|Produced by||Nick Wechsler|
|Written by||Michael Seitzman|
|Based on||Class Action
by Clara Bingham and Laura Leedy Gansler
|Music by||Gustavo Santaolalla|
|Edited by||David Coulson|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Box office||$25.2 million|
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.
In 1989, Josey Aimes returns to her hometown in northern Minnesota with her children, Sammy and Karen, after escaping from her abusive husband. She moves in with her parents, Alice and Hank. Hank is ashamed of Josey, who had Sammy as a teenager by an unknown father and therefore thinks Josey is promiscuous. The townspeople believe the same, which causes the community not to associate with her. Her only friends are Glory Dodge and Glory's husband, Kyle. Glory, who works at the local iron mines (the town's main source of income), aids Josey in getting a job there. Glory and Kyle also allow Josey to stay at their home with her children, due to Josey's poor relationship with her father.
Josey quickly befriends the other female workers at the mine, who include Glory, Sherry, Peg and Big Betty, and soon realizes the women are constant targets for sexual harassment and humiliation by most of their male co-workers, most notably Bobby Sharp, a former friend of Josey's from high school, as most of the townspeople believe women should not be allowed to be miners. After witnessing the harassment of the other women, and being subjected to it herself, Josey tries to talk to her direct supervisor about the problem, but he refuses to take her concerns seriously, as he also believes women should not be working at the mine.
Josey's attempts to address the problem prompts the men to spread lies about her trying to seduce them, which leads Bobby's wife to publicly berate Josey. When Sammy comes to believe the gossip about his mother's promiscuity, it also leads them to grow estranged. After the mine's board of directors refuses to hear Josey's complaints about the treatment of women at the mine, and after being sexually assaulted by Bobby at work, she quits and asks Bill White, a lawyer friend of Kyle and Glory, 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, which would make it the first class-action sexual-harassment lawsuit ever filed in the country. The female miners however, are hesitant, as this would mean risking their jobs or making the harassment even worse. Josey also discovers that Glory has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.
Hank is disappointed by Josey's decision, and Alice leaves him, tired of his criticism of their daughter. At a union meeting, Josey attempts to address the miners and explain her reasons for suing the mine. When they refuse to hear her and start verbally abusing her, Hank, who is also in attendance, stands up for his daughter and reprimands his co-workers for their rude treatment of Josey and all the women at the mine.
In court, the mine's lawyers attempt to hold Josey's so-called promiscuity past against her, and have Bobby Sharp testify as to how Sammy is the result of a consensual sexual relationship between Josey and one of their high school teachers. Josey then reveals the truth: When she and Bobby were in high school, they were caught skipping class and kissing by a teacher, and were forced to stay after school 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 raped by their teacher. When Bobby came back into the school to get Josey, he witnessed the rape and, not knowing what to do, he left the school quickly and never told anyone due to his shame over not saving Josey. Josey was impregnanted from the rape and gave birth to Sammy. Josey's lawyer Bill gets Bobby to admit he is lying about the sex being consensual.
Glory has come to the court in her wheelchair and from the back of the room, her husband reads a letter saying she stands with Josey. Other women then stand up to support Josey's complaint. They are followed by more women, family members, and miners, making the case a class action. 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 Sammy how to drive, telling him that she intends to buy him a car on his eighteenth birthday.
Lois Jenson, on whom the character of Josey is based, actually began working at the EVTAC (from "Eveleth Taconite") 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.
- "North Country" by Gustavo Santaolalla – 2:08
- "Girl of the North Country" by Leo Kottke – 3:33
- "Tell Ol' Bill" by Bob Dylan – 5:08
- "Werewolves of London" by Warren Zevon – 3:28
- "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes – 3:49
- "If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body (Would You Hold It Against Me)" by The Bellamy Brothers – 3:17
- "Lay Lady Lay" by Bob Dylan – 3:19
- "A Saturday in My Classroom" by Gustavo Santaolalla – 3:46
- "Sweetheart Like You" by Bob Dylan – 4:37
- "Baby Don't Get Hooked on Me" by Mac Davis – 3:05
- "Do Right to Me Baby (Do Unto Others)" by Bob Dylan – 3:52
- "Standing Up" by Gustavo Santaolalla – 2:43
- "Paths of Victory" by Cat Power – 3:24
Songs in the film 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."
The film premiered at the 2005 Toronto International 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. Budgeted at $30 million, it eventually grossed $18,337,722 in the US and $6,873,453 in foreign markets for a total worldwide box office of $25,211,175.
On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 69% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 162 reviews. On Metacritic, the film has an average score of 68 out of 100, based on 39 reviews.
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
Awards and nominations
- Academy Award for Best Actress (Charlize Theron, nominee)
- Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (Frances McDormand, nominee)
- Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama (Theron, nominee)
- Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture (McDormand, nominee)
- BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Theron, nominee)
- BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (McDormand, nominee)
- Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role – Motion Picture (Theron, nominee)
- Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role – Motion Picture (McDormand, nominee)
- Satellite Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama (Theron, nominee)
- Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture (McDormand, nominee)
- BFCA Critics' Choice Award for Best Actress (Theron, nominee)
- BFCA Critics' Choice Award for Best Supporting Actress (McDormand, nominee)
- Las Vegas Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actress (McDormand, winner)
- Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association for Best Actress (Theron, nominee)
- List of American films of 2005
- Sexual harassment
- Hostile environment sexual harassment
- Michelle Vinson v. Merit One Savings Bank
- Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services
- Hostile Advances: The Kerry Ellison Story
- "NORTH COUNTRY (15)". British Board of Film Classification. October 18, 2005. Retrieved February 10, 2015.
- "North Country (2005)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. January 13, 2006. Retrieved February 10, 2015.
- "A victim rises up," ''St. Petersburg Times'', October 20, 2005. Sptimes.com. Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
- ''North Country'' at. Boxofficemojo.com (2005-10-21). Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
- ''North Country at Rotten Tomatoes.com. Rottentomatoes.com. Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
- ''North Country'' at. Metacritic.com. Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
- Dargis, Manohla. (2005-10-21) review. New York Times. Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
- ''Chicago Sun-Times'' review. Rogerebert.suntimes.com. Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
- ''San Francisco Chronicle'' review. Sfgate.com (2005-10-21). Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
- ''Rolling Stone'' review. Rollingstone.com (2005-10-20). Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
- Rooney, David. (2005-09-12) ''Variety'' review. Variety. Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
- "A Victim Rises Up". St. Petersburg Times (USA). Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
- Official website
- North Country at the Internet Movie Database
- North Country at Box Office Mojo
- North Country at Rotten Tomatoes
- North Country at Metacritic
- Jenson Vs. Eveleth Mines and North Country, the true story which served as the basis for the film
- About the filming of North Country