Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Capsule Review: North Country

Movie: North Country (2005)
Director/Studio: Niki Caro / Warner Bros.
10 Word Review: Authentic looking, mostly good true-life movie buoyed by a stellar cast.
Best Thing About It: The art direction and cinematography complement each other quite well. The story takes place in a Minnesota mining town (meaning: poor, rural, snowy) in the late-1980s (the Clarence Thomas – Anita Hill era, if you can call that an era, and I think you can, because hoo-boy, those were the days! Pubes on a Pepsi can, that takes me back!). So the period detail, such as it is, is very specific and subtle, but every nuance says "low-income industrial town." And the photography captures that art design perfectly. As distasteful as some of the subject matter is, it's rendered wonderfully.
Worst Thing About It: The ending, hands down. It's brutal – predictable, uninspired, and sappy in all the worst ways. Caro works so hard throughout the movie creating a movie that – while intense in its cruelty to the main character – still seems credible. The ending undermines that, badly.
Best Performance: Charlize Theron is very good, and cements her standing as a for-real dramatic actress, but Frances McDormand is still the all-pro in the lineup. It's to her credit that she makes such a strong impression before her character gets saddled with the somewhat-gimmicky fatal illness. She never lets the gimmick get the best of the performance. She rocks.
Grade: B

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