A married woman realizes how unhappy her marriage really is, and that her life needs to go in a different direction. After a painful divorce, she takes off on a round-the-world journey to "find herself".
Erin Brockovich-Ellis is an unemployed single mother, desperate to find a job, but is having no luck. This losing streak even extends to a failed lawsuit against a doctor in a car accident she was in. With no alternative, she successfully browbeats her lawyer to give her a job in compensation for the loss. While no one takes her seriously, with her trashy clothes and earthy manners, that soon changes when she begins to investigate a suspicious real estate case involving the Pacific Gas & Electric Company. What she discovers is that the company is trying quietly to buy land that was contaminated by hexavalent chromium, a deadly toxic waste that the company is improperly and illegally dumping and, in turn, poisoning the residents in the area. As she digs deeper, Erin finds herself leading point in a series of events that would involve her law firm in one of the biggest class action lawsuits in American history against a multi-billion dollar corporation. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm <email@example.com>
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon.)
Julia Roberts stars as an unrelentingly tactless, thoroughly tasteless, charm-school dropout twice divorced, the mother of three who dresses like a Las Vegas whore. We love her. She is a woman who's been disappointed a time or two and generally expects the worst, and when she doesn't get it, she's surprised. She is her own worst enemy with a foul mouth and a skanky style and a chip on her shoulder. She is also very smart and incredibly strong and knows right from wrong (and that's the chip on her other shoulder). We love her.
Stir in Richard Gere or Tom Cruise (no, he's too short)... How about...no, no, NO. Give her someone near her equal. How about a real actor twice her age? How about Albert Finney (whom I first saw in the delightful Tom Jones (1963))? Together they play it like Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy without the romance. Not only does it work, it's a triumph. Finney really is brilliant. His timing is exquisite as is his ability to round his character. Did you catch the shot of him with the one eye comically magnified through his glasses? For love interest give her a bandana-wearing biker whom she turns into a house husband to take care of her kids while she takes on Pacific Gas and Electric (market cap = $28-billion). For the first time in her life she is doing something important. For the first time in her life people respect her. There's something wonderful about this because even without an education people can see, and she can know, that she's their equal and maybe a bit more.
Aaron Eckhart, lately seen as the sociopathic Chad in the startlingly original In the Company of Men (1997) plays the biker house husband with fidelity and a kind of sappy warmth. She neglects him and her kids for her obsession. Susannah Grant, who penned the very clever script must have gotten a good laugh with this unusual household, the poor, stay at home neglected husband, the always on the road wife. Incidentally, don't miss the scene where he first kisses her. It was so real all I could think was this guy is kissing Julia Roberts! She is so powerfully expressive that everything she does is real. That's her gift.
A significant part of the success of Erin Brockovich of course is in the compelling (and substantially true) story of David versus Goliath ("and all his relatives," as Finney quips), of good versus evil, of the "little guy" versus the corporate behemoth. I won't be giving away anything by telling you that there's a happy ending. But this is also a triumph for Director Steven Soderbergh who can now add a box office success to critical acclaim. I haven't seen any of his latest movies, (I'm looking forward to seeing Traffic), but I recall with pleasure the very interesting Sex, Lies, & Videotape from 1989. I am also looking forward to the Academy Awards presentations because I suspect the Academy is going to reward both Julia Roberts and Soderbergh by making Erin Brockovich the Best Picture of the year 2000.
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