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If I didn't know it was based on a "true" story I might have dismissed this movie as "unrealistic", particularly in the first half hour or so when it started off like another Julia Roberts comedy. At the beginning the film appears to focus primarily on her wardrobe, her foul language, and the developing romance with the "boy next door", whom she initially dislikes. As it turns out, the actual story, according to the bonus features on the DVD was even more melodramatic than the film's. The real Erin actually got sick to the point of hospitalization from the chromium in Hinkley. The director wisely decided to cut out this part of the story, to avoid making her too much of a martyr. Another aspect while not totally ignored (she does mention at least once that she's a "slow reader") but underplayed is Erin's dyslexia. This makes her accomplishments all the more amazing! Personally, I think this fact could have been emphasized more, as no doubt it was a big factor behind her "attitude" problems - her combativeness toward people with more education than herself, her struggles in finding a job, perhaps even in her efforts to accentuate her physical attractiveness through her outrageous clothing. All in all I found it an enjoyable and enlightening story - the triumph of a unique individual whose determination, empathy, and sense of moral duty ultimately outweigh her abrasiveness and lack of social graces. And largely why she triumphs is her partnership with an intelligent and decent lawyer in Ed Masry. What a refreshing departure from the usual Hollywood stereotype! On many occasions, he effectively counters Erin's prejudices with rational explanations how and why the legal system works the way it does, and why lawyers behave the way they do. With her passion and his reason, they make a great team. Now if only the movie hadn't fallen into the old Hollywood trap of giving its leading lady more outfits than is realistic for someone of her economic status. The point that Erin dressed provocatively and this caused problems with her co-workers could have easily been made with just 3 or 4 costumes. Other than that, it was a good movie - great performances and a wonderful story.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Despite being somewhat manipulative, despite being based on true
events, despite essentially being a Julia Roberts' vehicle to the
extreme, Steven Sodebergh hits a home run with his David and Goliath
story. ERIN BROCKOVICH tells the story of -- who else -- Erin
Brockovich, a single woman who has somehow lost her way and been under
hard times. Urgently needing work to pay her bills as she is close to
bankrupt she hustles her way into Masry's office and gets a job as a
file clerk (much to his and the entire office's resistance due to her
over-the-top personality) where she uncovers some papers from Pacific
Gas and Electric mixed with other real estate papers which don't add
up. Taking matters to her own hands she decides to investigate further
and finds that PG and E had been buying people out of their homes and
paying for their medical bills because they were covering up the
contamination from hexavalent chromium in the community water to which
she enlists Masry to bring forth one of the biggest lawsuits in
Where most legal thrillers, in order to succeed, litter their stories with a slew of shady figures and double-crosses and plot twists, ERIN BROCKOVICH succeeds in sticking (like its heroine) to its "little train that could" story from start to finish. While this curbs some of the suspense, it heightens its social aspect because we identify with the little man. We want this woman who has had a hard life to get her case across, and we also want these innocent people who are victims of the "big corporation to get their compensation. It's like a much anticipated fight between Rocky and his adversary but without the sentimentalism: it's not so much will he win, but what will he do to win. This is the kind of film in which we already know at a gut level what will happen, but what we focus on is the battle itself.
ERIN BROCKOVICH also succeeds in its performances, and with that I don't only mean Julia Roberts who with this role has found her inner actress. There is a scene in which Brockovich reveals to Donna Jensen (played by CSI's Marg Helgenberger) that PG and E have not been on her side, going so far as to pay for her medical bills to cover the fact that they have contaminated the water -- water that her kids are playing in -- her quiet horror is registered on her face. Albert Finney also brings some of his quiet to Ed Masry and in turn is able to ground her when things get rough near the end -- he and Roberts light up the screen whenever they are together without having any sexual tension, leaving it all to their acting styles. Veanne Cox is funny in a buttoned-up way as the lawyer who confronts Erin Brockovich, not knowing who she is coming up against. If anything, Aaron Eckhart is the only actor whose role seems a little like filler, or maybe the story didn't know what to do with him once he had effectively seduced Brockovich, but he has some good scenes near the beginning.
Then there is Julia Roberts in a role that should have gone to a more experienced actress -- someone like Felicity Huffmann who actually resembles the real Brockovich but was not a box-office draw. Roberts fully embodies her character and is given line after sharp line to the point that almost every scene ends with a savage quip from her mouth complete with reaction shot. There are even times when her ferocious grip on her character threatens to go into scenery-chewing. However, Soderbergh brings out a complete acting range from Roberts as Brockovich the person as opposed to cartoon, and with this, Roberts can claim this as her breakthrough role which finally separates her from her trademark persona. This was the role in which she got the Oscar for Best Actress, beating out Ellen Burstyn for REQUIEM FOR A DREAM. Stephen Soderbergh would also win, but for a different film altogether: TRAFFIC, a film which would also grant acting nominations on its own.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Hallelujah for Julia Roberts. She was BORN to play this role! Erin
Brockovich is one of the most entertaining movies I have seen in a long
time! And I am VERY EXCITED ABOUT THAT!
The element that made Julia Roberts a star in Pretty Woman is very much what carried this movie. Julia's strengths is her ability to play street-wise, honest, and passionate characters. Erin Brockovich is all those things.
The writing is dead on, making Roberts job easier, I am sure. And Roberts delivery of the lines was flawless. SHE WAS ERIN BROCKOVICH. Not that I have ever met the woman...
Only in some places did the movie feel a little slow, I think perhaps, because of what the movie was about. Contamination cases aren't exactly the most exciting of plots, but it doesn't stay in one place too long and keeps moving.
I would pay full price to see this movie again. There is just so much funny dialogue in it.
9 out of 10 I vote.
Steven Soderbergh's Erin Brockovich is exactly the uplift picture you've always hoped for. strong acting, moving script, important issues, legitimate procedurals and best of all it is scrupulously faithful to its true story. Struggling outspoken single mom, Erin (the Oscar winning performance by Julie Roberts proving irrevocably that she is more than just tits and teeth), gets on with a law firm run by Ed Masry (Albert Finney in a justifiably nominated supporting role)just in time to break open the biggest direct action corporate lawsuit in american history. it is not a simple magic act either. Erin's got her character flaws (many of which are visited on supportive biker boyfriend George, played by Aaron Eckhart) and the lawsuit is immensely complicated, though Screenwriter Susannah Grant's nominated script keeps it all in focus and understandable. It's the kind of story we can all learn a lot from. Erin works her tail off, polishes her own too harsh rough edges and ultimately wins a richly deserved reward (just the film itself was so amply rewarded.)It's a story that inspires americans to believe in the system and fight against corporate injustice on their own personal level. It's the kind of thing that shows each and every person can make a big difference. everybody should be proud of soderbergh for realizing what a huge hero Erin Brockovich is and for bringing her struggles and triumphs to the screen.
Out of work, out of hope, trashy, twice divorced single mother Erin
fails to get another job due to her lack of experience. On her way home
she is hit by another car. She goes to lawyer Ed Masry who
spectacularly fails to win her any damages. Erin demands he gives her a
job and he begrudgingly does. Doing some of his pro-bono work, Erin
uncovers evidence that suggests that manufacturing firm PG&E had
poisoned the local water supply and lie to residents about the content.
As she looks deeper she finds a legacy of illness and a small bit of
research turns into a mammoth case.
I don't know how much of this drama is factual and how much of it is changed to add to dramatic effect but regardless the story is involving, funny and moving. At the time there was a rash of 'environmental damage' legal films of which this is one of the more polished and classy. The film focuses as much on Erin as it does on the case and at times it risked failing as a legal drama/thriller. However it still grips as the facts pretty much speak for themselves the film adds to this by creating a real sense of PG&E as a monster without scruples or concern for the residents. As a result the events feel more powerful and involving. It feels slow at times, but if you're into it then it feels patient rather than slow and deliberate rather than laboured.
The biggest reason that the focus on Erin works is because Roberts really does very well giving her Erin a down to earth, trashy feel that could have been hammy or unbelievable (she is a multimillion pound actress after all), but it wasn't. Instead it was realistic and quite warm where she could have been annoying. The grumpy Finney is also good value and seems natural in the role. Eckhart is almost too good to be true but gives a likable performance and is a winning non-distraction.
The film benefits from the style that Soderbergh brings to it. It glides with the grace that he brought to Ocean's 11 and has the rich colouring that parts of Traffic had. His direction really adds to the film and makes the sum feel a little greater that the parts put together.
Overall this may not be the legal thriller that you hoped for and it may move a great deal slower that I thought a Hollywood film would, but it is worth it. The film is patient and worth baring with and Roberts is actually pretty good in the lead! Enjoyable.
In its story, `Erin Brockovich' breaks little new ground. Essentially, it
joins the ranks of earlier films such as `Silkwood,' `The Insider,' `A
Action,' `The Rainmaker,' among others, each of which tells the tale of a
common `David' (be it in the form of a whistleblowing employee or
compassionate, righteous lawyer) who, against all odds, mounts a seemingly
quixotic crusade against a corporate Goliath. All the above five films
expose the shoddy and often malevolent business practices of companies that
have resulted in major health care crises for both their own employees as
well as the residents who live near the companies' facilities. In the case
of `Erin Brockovich,' the villain is the PG&E electrical plant located in
the desert community of Hinckley, near Barstow, California. It seems that
the residents of this small town have been experiencing a mind-bogglingly
high number of serious illnesses and miscarriages that PG&E has assured
are not in any way related to the activities at their site. The company
even brought in medical professionals and toxicologists to assuage the
residents' growing fears. Almost by chance, Erin Brockovich stumbles onto
this information and takes up the challenge of fighting for the rights of
these victims and exposing PG&E's gross malfeasance in the
Looking at its bare-boned plotting, one must concede that there really isn't much that is new here. However, thanks to a pair of utterly smashing performances by Julia Roberts and Albert Finney and a beautifully well-rounded portrait of a real-life heroine, this Steven Soderbergh film emerges as a true crowd-pleasing triumph. This may, in fact, be not only Roberts' best performance, but her finest role as well. Erin is not a conventional do-gooder heroine. First of all, she is often abrasive and off-putting in her demeanor. Dressed more like a fashion devotee of Roberts' `Pretty Woman' call girl character than a serious legal executive, Erin often launches into unrestrained, obscenity-laced tirades at her boss, her loving boyfriend, even the corporate lawyer bigwigs sent to help her when the case she is making comes close to completion. Yet, it is just this no-nonsense directness that earns her the confidence of the people she is trying so desperately to help. A twice-divorced mother of three, she is as passionate in the defense of her own children as she is in the defense of her case. Yet, she is a woman made up of any number of internal contradictions. Much as she loves her children, she has made a shambles of her life in recent years. Rootless and lacking the skills necessary to procure a well-paying job, she practically has to beg to get hired in the office of a lawyer who has failed to win her a settlement in a traffic accident case. Staunchly individualistic, she refuses to tone down her rhetoric or her temper or to adopt the more `professional' attire of the business world even if it might mean that she would be taken more seriously by those around her. She assumes that no man would be willing to consider having a serious relationship with her because of her children and marital track record, yet, when a man enters her life doing just that, her insecurities and her intense commitment to the cause for which she is fighting begin to drive him away and her children as well. Most fascinatingly, perhaps, we are led to wonder whether it is really the suffering people who motivate her obsessive commitment or rather, as she herself admits, the personal recognition she receives now when she walks into a room and people clamor desperately to know what she thinks on an issue. All credit to Susannah Grant for writing a character so full of believable paradoxes. Obnoxious as Erin is at times, her innate vitality, wisdom and warm-hearted compassion consistently shine forth. Grant, by making her such a three-dimensional figure, mitigates much of the incredibility that lies at the root of this story, true though it may be.
And, given this juicy role, Roberts is nothing short of a revelation. She conveys each conflicting mood and character trait perfectly. Never before has this actress brought such a breezy assurance to her every action and statement. She literally holds this rich film together, forcing us to focus intently on the storm of emotions taking place deep inside this complex woman. This is definitely Oscar-caliber work. Equally brilliant is Albert Finney as Ed Masry, the lawyer for whom Erin works, a jovial, easygoing man who watches with a bemused appreciation as Erin hurls colorful invective at him, rages against the system and dresses down with withering sarcasm not only the legal representatives from PG&E but the seasoned lawyers Masry himself has hired to help bring home the case. One of Erin's most endearing traits is that she is an equal opportunity harridan a fact that wins Masry over every bit as much as it does us.
If `Erin Brockovich' has a weakness, it comes in the form of Erin's romantic relationship with the unemployed motorcycle rider next door. He seems simply too good to be true, and, although we know that it is necessary to fill in this particular part of Erin's life to make her portrait a well-rounded and complete one, it is still the least interesting and believable part of the tale. We feel we are being too often distracted from the meaty center of the story.
Still, this is a minor quibble about a film that works so beautifully on so many levels. As Erin Brockovich, Julia Roberts has finally found the role uniquely suited to her enormous talents and she blazes forth more brightly than she has ever done before. I, for one, will be roundly rooting for her come Oscar night.
The only thing bigger than Julia Roberts' chest in "Erin Brockovich" is
the heart this film has. While it is a drama, it would be more apt to
describe the plot as a struggle, because it's all about fighting for
what you believe in and overcoming the odds and all opposing forces.
Nothing bad actually happens in this movie, at all, but it's the
complications, the setbacks the moral struggles along the way that make
"Erin Brockovich" stars Julia Roberts in the title role in a film based on the true story of a twice-married mother of three who is desperate to find a way to make a living and provide for her family. After a failed attempt at suing for damages after a car accident, Brockovich turns to her lawyer, Ed Masry (Albert Finney), for a job doing anything she can at his law firm. Reluctantly he accepts and soon Brockovich finds herself uncovering a potentially huge case.
Roberts had to have been a no-questions-asked best actress winner after this performance. As Brockovich she is incredible playing multiple roles as the loving mother, the driven working-woman, the troubled lover, everything. The mood swings are effortless for her. Perhaps the best element of her performance is that she comes across as glaringly flawed, even if she is quite likable. Her lines are killer and delivered with command. Though some of her rants are over the top, they're really clever nonetheless.
Finney's character is much the same way. He is really enjoyable to watch and gives a great performance even though his character never gets truly dramatic.
This is just a great screenplay by Susannah Grant. It's almost completely devoid of melodrama and yet it tackles so many real life issues. Brockovich's struggle to balance her work with her family brings up an issue that can connect with anyone, although the feminist tones of the film obviously won't connect as strongly with men. Director Steven Soderbergh feels very distant from the film. Every so often a shot or sequence will be artistic, but he allows the story to tell itself for the most part.
"Erin Brockovich" is better than the average feel-good story. When there's little melodrama and great acting, a feel-good story becomes a great movie. Sports films based on true stories are feel-good stories, but they don't get nominated for best picture. While it may all seem too good to be true and the positive seems to trump the negative more times than it ought to, the film still feels very real and one that no one should miss.
After all of the hype surrounding this film I was prepared to be disappointed. I was not! This film deserved to win Roberts the Oscar, her performance was superb. She plays the seemingly white trash Erin who may not have the qualifications but does not lack the intelligence. Through a simple research job she discovers that a large corporation has been poisoning the water supply of a town. She fights their corner for them and eventually secures them a huge court settlement. It is not plain sailing for Erin as she has to overcome stereotypes and prejudice but she wins through in the end through her hard work and determination. Finney provides sterling support and his exchanges with Roberts provide some classic moments. I cannot recommend this film highly enough!
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut
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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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Based on a true story of tenacity and humble beginnings, this film
follows Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts) in her stiletto-clad stumble
through the challenges of scraping by to pay bills, raising her
children and catering to the whims of whiny boyfriends. It is clear
from the beginning what a haphazard balancing act Brockovich's life is,
opening on her painfully awkward attempts to make a good impression
through an unsuccessful job interview, where we learn that she is an
unemployed single mother of three. Wallowing in her defeat only long
enough to smoke a single cigarette, she makes her way back to her old
orange car, which has since acquired a parking ticket, and almost
predictably is T-boned at an intersection minutes after leaving.
The ways in which life is stacked against Brockovich are revealed gradually through her meeting with a lawyer in order to sue the driver that hit her, and later the disastrous cross examination in which her fiery temper and colorful diction cost her the jury's sympathy and her chances of winning any reparations for her pain and suffering. In her impatience at the defense lawyer's suggestion that she saw his wealthy client as an opportunity to capitalize on a lawsuit, it is clear that she is familiar with the ways in which power dynamics sway to favor the opposite of everything she embodies. Now confronted with the failure of her lawsuit, Brockovich is set back further than before, and forced to be even more driven and resourceful in her methods of obtaining her next paycheck.
In this desperation, she turns back to her lawyer, Ed Masry (Albert Finney), demanding a job at the law firm in a grand show of shouting and refusal to leave, expressing that he owes her something for false promises and the failed lawsuit that left her in even more debt. When it becomes clear that Brockovich will not take no for an answer, Masry offers her a position as a file clerk. It is in the midst of this tedious paperwork that she discovers suspicious details of what was supposed to be a simple real estate case, which sends her on an investigation of a scheme bigger than she could have imagined.
While the film was inspired by the story of how Brockovich investigates the ethics of the insidious corporation Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and touches on the intricate workings of the legal system, its strength lies in how deeply it appeals to the viewer's emotion, strategically taking the time to zero in on the struggles Brockovich faces in her personal life in order to humanize her, when on the job her abrasive personality could otherwise be off-putting. In the face of poverty, motherhood and romantic entanglements, it is clear how she grew to project a tough exterior for the sake of survival.
Brockovich's home life is one device used often to make her more accessible to the audience, revealing the tension with her young children over the long hours she must work, and her dilemma between helping the families she represents in her case or focusing on her own family. A defining moment illustrating the struggle she faces as a mother is in an argument with her boyfriend (Aaron Eckhart), who feels that he is being neglected for her work and taking too much responsibility in caring for her children. In a decision rarely made in fictional stories, Brockovich chooses to prioritize her work over her romantic relationship, a powerful choice challenging the familiar trope of a woman realizing that love is more important than her ambition. This is a powerful, pivotal moment in the film.
This film is more impressive than most in its portrayal of womanhood, Brockovich embodying a conglomeration of qualities which fictional accounts rarely conflate. It should not be groundbreaking to present a strong and intelligent female character who also has children and on top of this wears short skirts and high heels, but few other films with this type of character come to mind. And perhaps it is solely for the sake of remaining faithful to the true story on which this is based that her character was created with such dimension. Unfortunately, the other female characters in this film are disappointingly pigeonholed into familiar roles, deliberately contrasting with Brockovich in myriad ways only as a means to further glorify her and set her apart. There are the other women at the law firm who are mostly frumpy and overweight, and seem to regard Brockovich negatively based only on her fashion sense or out of envy. This reproduces the familiar but apocryphal idea that women are in constant competition with one another rather than being allies. There are the victimized clients she helps: rural, married and ignorant mothers who play the sympathetic characters. Then there is the other female lawyer, who, in spite of being on her side of the case, is portrayed as uptight and snobbish, unsuccessful in her attempts to connect with the working class community that the firm represents.
This is the story of an underdog, a representative of a stigmatized group in our society: a single mother, twice divorced, and poor. Above all of this, she is unapologetic in her femininity, refusing to be shamed for her opinions, clothing choices or pursuit of justice. Although it has its weaknesses in succumbing to an uncomfortable number of clichés, the film weaves a heartfelt tale of determination and navigating the gray areas between work and personal life as a woman. I am confident that anyone more emotional than me (read: anyone) would have minimal critique of this evocative combination of comedy and drama, which culminates to a tear-jerking resolution, even more impactful given the fact that it is based on true events. In spite of a few shortcomings and my own nitpicking critiques, I would rate this film highly and recommend it.
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