Have you ever heard of the concept a wolf in sheep's clothing? Well, North Country is a little like that, except it's an average film in Oscar clothing.
North Country stars Charlize Theron as Josey Aimes, a struggling working-class mother who feels that the only way to make a better life for her family is to take a grueling job at the local coal mine. Her parents (Sissy Spacek and Richard Jenkins) are adamant about Josey not taking the job, citing that the mine is no place for women.
Josey's time at the mine is filled with constant physical and verbal abuse from her co-workers. A small group of women who work at the mine take the abuse in fear of losing their jobs. An advocate for the women (Frances McDormand) struggles for acceptance and to open a window to invoke change within the union and company.
All Josey wants is a better life for her kids, and she begins to fight back against the company, except it backfires and she becomes enemy #1 within the community. Josey has no choice but to hire local hero and lawyer Bill White (Woody Harrelson) to help her mount a case against the mining company.
The film rests on the shoulders of a dynamic performance from Charlize Theron, who once again proves she is one of the best actresses out there right now. Her raw emotion and ability to envelope herself in the role is always amazing to watch, and she seems to do it here with such ease and confidence.
The thing is, Theron is probably the only really great thing about this film. The story is interesting, heart-breaking, and very hard to watch at times, but its power is all in Theron's performance. I often found myself comparing some of the scenes to the film The Accused, where the film isn't a great film but it's incredible to watch just for the performance from Jodie Foster.
Even past Oscar winners Sissy Spacek and Frances McDormand seem to be mere shadows to Theron. McDormand would have to be the second stand-out, but the tragedy of her role is never fleshed out as much as it could have been.
The film's sexist scenes of sexual harassment reminded me a lot of films about racism, because that's exactly what these ignorant and insecure men were doing to these women.
Racism, like sexism, is a social disease. It isn't in our genetics and there is no reason for it. Mainly, it can spring from social pressures, insecurity, or harsh upbringing. The world in which Josey lives has been lead to believe that everything that goes on up at the mine is all right and because of social pressures, nothing ever gets fixed. It is sad to see that we do these kinds of things to each other.
The film's final hour seems way too convenient and very Hollywood to support such a strong storyline. The passion of the story and the woman's struggle seems rudimentary with an ending like that.
I admire how this woman stood up against her society, but I just wish it would have been a better, stronger film to showcase this incredible struggle. (3.5 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.