This Whole Courtroom Drama's Out Of Order!

Columbus Alive | October 20, 2005
Often covered in dirt and always sporting an unflattering ’80s ’do, Charlize Theron’s abused mine worker is likely gritty and challenging enough to earn the actress another Oscar nod. Director Nikki Caro’s follow-up to Whale Rider, inspired by the first class-action sexual harassment suit in U.S. history, provides Theron and several supporting players with a showcase for their estimable skills, and beautifully tints the northern Minnesota mining country a steely blue. As cohesive drama or testament to feminist strength, however, it’s not so effective.

Living at home with parents Sissy Spacek and Richard Jenkins after fleeing her wife-beating husband, Theron’s Josey Aimes takes the mine job at the suggestion of old friend Glory (the ever-reliable Frances McDormand), a driver and union rep there. Forced to hire women by a court ruling, the company, and its male employees, don’t exactly greet the new hires with flowers.

A dildo in a co-worker’s lunch box on Josey’s first day escalates into epitaphs written on the women’s locker room walls in human waste and physical attacks. After she’s jumped by her most aggressive antagonist and publicly humiliated by the man’s wife, Josey turns to small town hockey hero-turned-lawyer Woody Harrelson for justice.

Despite the heated exchanges and significant plot developments that occur in the courtroom, once the court case revs up the movie becomes squishy and disappointingly average. Harrelson grandstands and momentarily chews scenery in the classic courtroom drama tradition. Meanwhile, McDormand withers into a mute ball from a debilitating disease and Theron makes a breakthrough with her angry son and angrier father after a secret from her past comes out on the stand.

Beyond unnecessarily fussing up the story line, with his treatment of Josey and Glory, screenwriter Michael Seitzman subverts what would seem to be a central point, the remarkable strength of the real-life women they represent. By heaping additional horrors onto the characters, he only highlights their role as helpless victims.

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Founded in 1983, Alive is the Capital City's oldest and only independent alternative and is known for providing a forum for the area's free thinkers. The paper's spirited and original perspective on music, arts and culture distinguish it from the...
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