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This Review Reveals Major Details About the Plot.

A Landmark Case

North Country (2005) on IMDb

Plot Overview

“North Country” tracks the actual struggle of a Minnesota woman named Laura Leedy Gansler for better working conditions in the mines. The landmark case of Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Company dragged on for years. If you want to learn about it, read the book. This dramatization necessarily cherry-picks events for theater audience consumption. Critical happenings in the woman's fiction­alized life are portrayed leading ahead to trial scenes and then flash­backs of her earlier life, to answer questions about her character. It's a David-and-Goliath style nail-biter until it reaches a Perry Mason moment of a sudden reveal, and then it segues into the aftermath.

To go through it in a linear fashion, we start with a pretty high school girl Josey who enjoys her popularity with the boys. Bobby Sharp makes some time with her according to a later explanation: “Men will always walk the line. It's when they cross over it is when most gals give them a slap on the hand, get them back on their side of that line. That's how men and women have been handling their problems since Adam and Eve.” Unfortunately, she attracts the attention of a guy who's a bit much for her to handle, Half­way like from a John Sandford novel:

His parents' sex life was as bad as the beatings: they'd get drunk and screw on the couch, or the floor, or the stairs, and if every­thing wasn't going just right, his father might hit her with an open hand, bat her around. She seemed to approve of it, taunt him until he hit her. Their ravings were impossible to escape: a shattering scream would drag him into the hall­way, and there they'd be, sweating, bleeding, drunk, naked. (105–6)

It was more one-sided in Josey's case, but then a guy married her for her reputation and that's what she was stuck with.

treeThe movie proper opens in medias res with an adult Josey Aimes (Charlize Theron) peace­fully preparing for Christmas with her two children Sammy (Thomas Curtis) and Karen (Elle Peter­son.) Her husband Wayne pulls up out­side in his muscle car and the next we see is Josey collapsed in a heap on the kitchen floor. She takes the children and drives to her parents Hank (Richard Jenkins) and Alice (Sissy Spacek.) Frank examines Josey, seeing she's marked some­how, and he remarks, “Probably on a bender when he did it.”

Communion serviceWhen Wayne comes for her, Hank wants her to return with him and submit. He figured him to have been in the dumps for being unemployed (“A man needs a job.”) The best local employer Pearson Taconite and Steel (PTS) has been struggling under an influx of cheap foreign steel. Further­more, the Supreme Court has decreed that they must hire women, women who take the men's jobs. From observing the children's first communions, we surmise that their church might also regard marriage as a sacrament making divorce out of the question.

Josey takes a job as a hair stylist where she reconnects with a girl she knew from high school. Now, it would be in Wayne's best financial interest to let her supplement his hunting spoils and fishing catch with her own income, and he wouldn't jeopardize it by marring her pretty face. Her old acquaintance Glory (Frances McDormand) seems to thrive working at the mine, much like a Sandford character:

Anna was a Midwestern farm kid, born and raised on a corn farm in Wisconsin.

The farm was part of her toughness: she had a farm kid's lack of fear when it came to physical confrontation. She'd even been in a couple of fights, in her twenties. … Farm kids knew how the world worked, right from the start. (29)

Josey takes the mine job at Glory's suggestion, but she's more namby-pamby than Glory. Eventually Josey ends up in a heap on a slag pile, similar to how she earlier ended up on her kitchen floor, only not as clean now and not in so quiet a place. She quits and sues PTS. Maybe she'll win but probably not. The extra money she earned from the mine job bought her kids better presents, but it turned into a Pyrrhic victory when the other kids refused to play with them.


Eminently respected business writer Peter F. Drucker states:

Throughout man's history, and above all, among primitive peoples, work groups have always been sexually differentiated. Men work together and women work together. But we rarely hear, either in history or in cultural anthro­pology, of work groups of mixed sex. Men hunt and women tend the village. Men build boats and women grow yams. In Europe women have tradition­ally milked cows, in America men; but on neither side of the Atlantic has milking been done by sexually mixed groups. (188)

According to respected scholar George F. Gilder,

Who would have anticipated that it would be liberal Republicans in the Nixon Administration who would fulfill the cynical dream of Judge Smith when he added the words “or sex” to the bitterly won civil rights laws of the sixties? Smith thought that the thicket of sex discrimination would ultimately confound and dis­credit all the anti­discrimin­ation efforts of government—in fact all the highest egalitarian impulses of liberalism. And he may have been right. (96)

In the movie we get to watch footage of the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearing on TV in which Anita Hill was complaining about his sexual harassment (“He said his penis is larger than normal.”) Sex equality in the work­place is a spawn of the race equality motif that in its turn elevated a black to the Supreme Court. (Prov. 30:21-22) “The earth is disquieted, and … it cannot bear: For a servant when he reigneth.” These social equality experiments have resulted in a lot of stress in society as is borne out by this movie.

Production Values

” (2005) was directed by Niki Caro. Its screenplay was written by Michael Seitzman, based on the novel Class Action: The Landmark Case That Changed Sexual Harassment Law by Clara Bingham and Laura Leedy Gansler. It stars Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand, Sean Bean, Richard Jenkins, Michelle Monaghan, Jeremy Renner, Woody Harrel­son, and Sissy Spacek. Theron gives a fine performance bolstered by a winnning cast. Frances McDormand, Sissy Spacek and Richard Jenkins shine like stars. The large supporting cast does their part well.

MPAA rated it R for sequences involving sexual harassment including violence and dialogue, and for language. Bob Dylan's pervasive music adds a nice touch. Some of the characters speak with a Minnesota accent, and some sound standard midwestern. The film was perceptively photo­graphed by cinematographer Chris Menges.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This is one of those dramas that starts out with a mess, the mess is strenuously resolved by a determined protagonist, and she leaves two other messes in her wake. The female director took her time to develop the largely negative feelings of the women working in a male-dominated environment, but she glossed over the disruption the men would have felt when their masculine work world was invaded by the species of women. The union meeting did not make the Minnesotans look good who are traditionally a polite people. I mostly found the movie to drag on and the main character not so sympathetic. How­ever, technically it was alright.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Well, at least you can't see the strings. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: Predictable. Overall movie rating: Three stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611. Rev. 1769. Software.

Drucker, Peter F. Management. London: Heinemann, 1974. Print.

Gilder, George F. Sexual Suicide. New York: Quadrangle, 1973. Print.

Sandford, John. The Night Crew. Copyright © 1997 by John Sandford. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1997. Print.