An Unfortunate Thumbs Down Film Review Rating
NORTH COUNTRY is a story we’ve heard many times before: small-town person is persecuted by big-time company, fights, loses ground, but succeeds in the end. This is ERIN BROCKOVICH and SILKWOOD all over again, but put in a sort of COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER setting (we even get to see Sissy Spacek!) Although this film focuses on the case that ultimately set the stage for the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace, the movie’s message dwarfed the actors.
One thing I love about films — if done right — is they get us up-close and intimate with a character or characters. CAPOTE did it. RAY did too. And WALK THE LINE was also excellently done. They focused on one character and so had that advantage, but NORTH COUNTRY is about one woman, too, named Josey Aimes played by the uglied-down (again!) Charlize Theron (AEON FLUX). Mrs. Theron has proven her mettle thanks to her stunning portrayal (and Oscar win) in MONSTER. We’ve all heard the accolades thrown down at her feet so I won’t bother you with a recap. Suffice to say she did an excellent job. Here in NORTH COUNTRY she also did some fine acting, but the script dashed any chances of reclaiming an Oscar. Frances McDormand (also in AEON FLUX) is notable as the hard-bitten friend who gets Josey Aimes the job at the local mine. McDormand’s tough love appearance on screen was well-played, and her eventual fall into Lou Gehrig’s Disease pitiable.
The filming of NORTH COUNTRY is pulled off well. The muted grays, dark browns, and dull colors of the mine give us the feel of a black and white film. As one actress pointed out in the DVD’s extra features, "There weren’t any pinks in the mine."
Where the film fell apart, again, was in the script. Jumping to flashbacks and trying to capture the family dynamic, the townsfolk sentiments, and dozens of other side stories all pulled the viewer away from the main character and tried to force-feed us the no-no’s of sexual harassment. I’m not trying to downplay harassment in the workplace. It’s an important message, but one that doesn’t necessarily translate to an enjoyable film experience. For example, with the exception of Woody Harrelson, all the other minor characters are easily forgettable (and I suspect the only reason I remember Woody is because I was a CHEERS fan).
You’ll note below that Charlize Theron and Frances McDormand both got quite a few nominations but won none of them. There’s a reason, folks.
Oscar Nomination: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Oscar Nomination: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
BAFTA Nomination: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
BAFTA Nomination: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Golden Globe Nomination: Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama
Golden Globe Nomination: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture