North Country (2005)
"Inspired by a true story," North Country tells the story of Josey Aimes (Charlize Theron) who works in the mines of the Mesabi Iron Range in northern Minnesota, and who initiated the first class action sexual harassment lawsuit in America. The first woman was hired in the mines in 1975, but this story begins in 1989 when men still outnumbered women 30 to 1. In the understatement of the film, a patronizing supervisor tells his new women employees, "the mines are a shit pit." The images we see make it hard to believe any human being would work there—filthy, deafening noise, dangerous, difficult and toxic, this is a Dickensian world, but a socio-economic world where people need their jobs. And for Josey, a single mom with two kids by two fathers who lives with her parents, the union job pays six times her job washing hair in a salon. It also brings vulgar sexual harassment of every sort, which she stands up to despite objections from every quarter—not only from the neanderthal men, but also from the isolated community, the union, her parents, and even her women colleagues. Despite the "nuts-n-sluts" accusations that she was either imagining things or brought them on herself, Josey challenges the system. Whereas in the film Monster where she played the repulsive murderer and psychopath Eileen Wuernos, in this film Theron is undoubtedly the best-looking bedraggled miner and single mom you'll likely see. A bit of a distraction in an otherwise powerful film about bravery in the face of injustice. Most disturbing of all, the lawsuit with the real-life Lois Jenson was only settled in 1991; the plaintiffs won a modest settlement, but more importantly a sexual harassment policy at the mines. Directed by Niki Caro, who also made Whale Rider.