Civil rights drama. Story of a single mother trying to work in the mines of Minnesota and how she overcame widespread sexual harassment on the job. This is the first class action lawsuit for sexual harassment that occurred in 1989. Charlize Theron is just brilliant in this gut wrenching social justice story. It is superbly told and should have received an Oscar nomination for best picture. The most moving movie of the year. It captures the experience of the heroine, Josie, as she joins the male-dominated workforce of the mines, where a few women have been allowed in, but are so frequently sexually harassed by the men that it went way beyond bad taste. And to top it all off, she has a false reputation as a whore (she was actually raped), which causes everyone to shift the blame onto her and no one will stand by her, not even her own father or the other women at the plant because they feel their jobs would be in jeopardy.
This movie is mostly fair in its portrayal of the kind of reasons why people do nothing about harassment. They all ring true, and quite frankly, as a man, I have to say that the sexual harassment rang true to male nature as well. The moment where her father turns and stands up for her at a union meeting, which is entirely against her, is a beautiful moment of grace and redemption. But so is the moment when she is in the court room all alone as the sole complaintant, trying to get someone, anyone to join her in order to get the class action lawsuit. And no one will do it. Until they all find out that she was raped and she is not a whore and then her best friend, who happens to have Lou Gehrig’s disease stands for her first, and then one by one a dozen people stand to join her. It’s all very formulaic and I CRIED MY EYES OUT because it was beautiful and virtuous and true.
Francis McDormand and Sean Bean bring it in with excellent performances as the childless couple who actually have a loving marriage, and Woody Harrelson is the New York lawyer who defends her, and is too shy to actually date her. So, the movie actually avoids feminist stereotyping by portraying a few good men, and good marriages.
On the down side, they try to cast the slanderous political attack on a black man, Clarence Thomas, as a similar case of sexual harassment, when in reality, Anita Hill was proven to be lying with a political agenda that could not be substantiated. And that points up the kind of story that really needs to be told now: The story of how victimization as a political agenda has created a culture of fear that can destroy innocent men’s lives with the mere accusation of political incorrectness. But despite this one major fallacy, the movie is a profound and beautiful story of redemption in the midst of a harsh environment of prejudice.