Who's in It:
Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand, Sean Bean, Woody Harrelson, Sissy Spacek
The Basics: A female miner in Minnesota fights back against sexual harassment in the late '80s.
What's the Deal? Just look at that ad campaign. See Theron looking all meaningful? See that close-up of her big soulful face like she's Maria Falconetti in The Passion of Joan of Arc? She's got an Oscar now, and with God as her witness, she'll never go back to being in movies like The Astronaut's Wife again. She's going to make important films about important issues to teach people important things, like how sexual harassment is so very wrong. It is wrong, too, but you'd kind of hope that a movie about it wouldn't feel so much like a court judgment against an innocent audience.
Spoilers Are Irrelevant: It's a fictionalized version of a landmark sexual harassment case that changed laws all over the country, so we know how it ends before we buy a ticket. Now guess which storytelling plaintiff wins: the one that was full of strong ideas about the nature of male-female gender roles and class issues? Or the one that offers a phony-suspenseful courtroom drama in which injustice is thwarted at the very last minute?
Once Is Not Enough: Theron is given plenty of weepy close-up moments in the tender moonlight and Oscar-speechifying opportunities about how she's not going to take it anymore and about how much she loves her children. McDormand gets her shot here too, and, even better, her character gets to do it in a wheelchair. You know Theron was like, "Hey, I want a wheelchair, too!"
Fake Teeth Are So Last Year: She didn't even gain weight for this one.
How You Know You're in for It: The very first scene in which Theron ends up bruised and bloodied by her creep husband. And there's more. And more. And more. She's so abused you keep waiting for the moment when she goes all Thelma & Louise.
Most Ridiculous Sentence in the Press Notes: "Through these struggles Josey [Theron's character] will find the courage to stand up for what she believes in — even if it means standing alone."
What's Good About It: Spacek, as usual. Survive co-starring in Blast From the Past, and they give you your own Teflon suit.