on August 16, 2000
Julia Roberts outdoes herself in yet another David and Goliath struggle based on a true story. Erin Brockovich (Roberts) is a down-on-her-luck mother of three who can't seem to hold down a job. After having an auto accident, she makes a bumpy transition from client to employee at the law firm and stumbles onto a case with staggering implications. It seems that utility giant PG&E has poisoned the groundwater and the local residents are getting gravely ill.
The story starts poorly with scenes of Erin looking for jobs and botching her accident case. The first twenty minutes of the film could have been condensed into five. However, once the investigation of the case begins, the story is engrossing. It is a powerful and well written human interest drama centered on a tough and smart (though crude) woman who leads a passionate crusade on behalf of the victims.
Director Steven Soderberg played it straight in filming this after his extremely avant-garde effort in "The Limey". His key strength here was the direction of the actors with both Julia Roberts and Albert Finney giving excellent interpretations of their characters. However, my only negative criticism of the film was the way Erin's boyfriend George was presented. George is a grubby tattoo covered biker (the tattoo on his left shoulder says "DIRTY") who behaves like Ward Cleaver with a ponytail. He is genteel, articulate, level headed, patient, sensitive and kind. All of this is so disconnected with his lifestyle that it seems inconceivable that a character this wonderful could possibly come in this package.
Julia Roberts' gave a superlative performance that smashed any myth about her inability as a dramatic actor. A far cry from her accustomed lightweight romantic characters, her portrayal of Brockovich was gritty, raw and audacious. Emotionally, she commanded states from manipulative vamp and vicious harpy to sympathetic confidant and indignant crusader. This is unquestionably her best performance and legitimizes her as one of the more versatile actresses in Hollywood.
Albert Finney also gave a fine performance as the bumbling but effective curmudgeon of a lawyer. He was simultaneously obnoxious and charming and created a good contrast to Roberts' character. The two of them had terrific chemistry.
Aaron Eckhart was lovable as George, although as mentioned above, the character's forbearing personality didn't jibe with his rebellious culture. However, I put more of the responsibility for this on the director than on the actor.
The DVD has some excellent comments by the real Erin Brockovich that lend credibility to the story. However, Brockovich is so toned down in these interviews, it makes Roberts' portrayal seem like an exaggeration.
This is an excellent story that is well and believably dramatized. I rated it an 8/10. For viewers who enjoy strong dramatic performances and who are not offended by liberal profanity, I recommend it highly.
on June 20, 2000
What was the last film I seen with Julia Roberts in? Ah, Runaway Bride, another Romanic comedy, and Notting Hill before that, same genre. So what on earth is she doing in a true-life drama? A lot actually......... I have to admit, I am a bit of a Julia Roberts fan, but never in my life did I expect she is this good. No, good is not the right word; Oscar worthy only comes close. That might make me a bit biased towards her but even the cynics cannot denied that she has broken her "pretty woman" mould and become a true character actor, besides Julia Roberts, her co-star Albert Finney is also excellent as Ed Masery, he almost steels the show with his subtle and convincing portrayal of Erin's boss and friend.
As I said and you probably know, this film is based on a true-life story about a woman with no skills who found out something weird is going on and sued a multi-billion-corporation company and won the largest lawsuit payout in American history. So what makes this film differ from other "true-life-dramas"? Well, a lot of the credit must be given to Julia Roberts, her portrayal of the real Erin is truly convincing. Her performance brings the character to life; the audience can truly FEEL the way she felt, I've seen this film twice in the theatre and it's just as good the second time around.
The script is sharpe, some of the dialogue from Erin is really humorous, and the drama is dealt with care and precision. This is true movie from Julia and from director Steven Soderbergh, another masterpiece to buy on DVD.
on February 23, 2001
Okay, language issues aside, Julia Roberts SHINES as the real-life Erin Brockovich, a dogged, unabashed crusader for justice.
Erin accidentally finds out that several hundred unsuspecting residents of Hinkley, California are dead or dying from poisoned water that has exceedingly high levels of toxic chromium.
This is a touching story that reminds me a lot of Sally Field's performance in Norma Rae. It's about a grass-roots effort to right a very terrible wrong, and the investigative techniques used by Erin will floor you with their sheer simplicity. It's not what she does, rather it's HOW she does what she does that makes a difference. Erin is not equipped professionally to take on this insurmountable task, but she refuses to let that stop her from trying. She's what I would call "ignorance on fire", but she's also smart as a whip.
What I love most about this movie is how Roberts character gets results when others can't. She may not be the most professional (this movie is cleavage city!), or meekest person you'll ever meet (her boss says she could use a good dose of "charm school" - he's right!) but she has a way with people. True, her wardrobe doesn't hurt in her getting her way so often (especially with men), but it's her honest compassion for these victims that makes the movie work.
Erin Brockovich teaches all of us a lesson in true leadership, persistence against all odds, and how to motivate people. These victims TRUST her because they know she really CARES, That's the real lesson here, and that's why she is so successful in getting them to do something they would never have done without her.
This movie is a real gem. You will learn a lot about purpose, passion, corruption, romance, and how to deal with people so that they respond. And you'll also learn that door-to-door selling is NOT antiquated!
on August 7, 2000
No matter what role she plays, she can always make it better. And this movie is one of them. Erin Brockovich is the out of luck, out of work woman with two kids. She starts working at a local law firm with no experience. When she comes onto a case that has to do with her own town's water, she takes it with decication. Fighting coragously to win against the large company that has destroyed the water, she shows that she is a true fighter.
It's not Julia's usual romance. She has never shown so much skin or played such a sassy role, but she does it wonderfully.
This is a very entertaining, well directed movie with an excellent performance by Albert Finney and a notable one by Julia Roberts who plays the title role of Erin Brockovich. The rest of the cast, likewise, give excellent performances.
The story is a compelling one. A down and out single mother of three young children, Erin Brockovich, gets into an auto accident. Her personal injury suit goes down the tubes, when she alienates the jury with her checkered past and salty language. Angry and desperate, she bullies her lawyer, Ed Masry, disarmingly played by Albert Finney, into hiring her, after he loses her personal injury case. He does so, to the consternation of his other employees. You see, Erin marches to the beat of a different drummer. She dresses like a tramp and talks like a longshoreman.
Which only goes to show you, that one should never judge a book by its cover. Beneath the vulgar exterior, lies a steel trap mind, which Erin put to good use when she goes through a pro bono real estate case, only to discover that there is more to the real estate transaction than meets the eye, a whole lot more. Intrigued by the fact that extensive medical records are included in the real estate transaction paperwork and wondering why that should be, Erin lets her natural curiosity and interest in people prevail. She goes about and investigates the matter.
What she ultimately discovers is that toxic waste is very clearly affecting the quality of life of the inhabitants of the town of Hinckley, California. It appears that the utilities giant Pacific Gas and Electric has been letting highly toxic chromium seep into the ground, affecting the water which the inhabitants of the town use. The utilities giant has compounded the problem by telling the townspeople that they should not worry about a little chromium, despite the high incidence of cancer and other illnesses which abound in Hinckley.
Erin, outraged on behalf of the townspeople, discovers through her research and investigation that Pacific Gas and Electric knew about the toxicity of the Chromium, but continued with business as usual and set about deceiving the unsuspecting townspeople to their ultimate detriment. Eager to right a serious wrong, Erin persuades her employer, small time lawyer, Ed Masry, to take on this big time case. This ultimately leads to one of the largest monetary class action settlements in history.
This is a true life David and Goliath story. Julia Roberts gives a sassy and brassy performance. Albert Finney does his part justice, as the beleagured small practitioner who decides to do the right thing, even though it could end to his detriment. His low key performance is a perfect foil to that of Julia Roberts'. It makes for a film well worth watching.
"Erin Brockovich" is a wonderful movie! Starring Julia Roberts, Albert Finney, and Aaron Eckhart, it's based on the real-life story of Erin Brockovich, a down-on-her-luck, twice divorced former beauty queen with three young children. Having no post-high school education and few job skills, she has great difficulty finding and holding down a job. Despite her adversities, she displays a fierce grit and determination as she constantly seeks ways to support her family.
Then a seemingly tragic twist of fate puts her on the road to a complete reversal of luck. After being seriously injured in a car crash, she sues the doctor who hit her. Her antagonistic personality and foul mouth cause her to lose her lawsuit. With bluff and bravado, she persuades her lawyer, Ed Masry, into giving her a job as a file clerk in his law firm.
Erin finds herself intrigued by one of the cases contained in the files she's putting away. Why are people's medical records included in a simple real estate transaction? She asks Ed if she can look into it. He agrees. What Erin finds horrifies her. A large electric utility near the small town of Hinkley has been dumping a highly toxic form of chromium into the water. Citizens in Hinkley are contracting various forms of cancer and other gravely debilitating diseases.
The film's main story line tells of Erin and Ed's efforts to persuade Hinkley's citizens to join in a class action lawsuit against the utility.
Julia Roberts, Albert Finney, and Aaron Echhart each illuminate the screen with their superb performances. In Roberts' case, it would be easy to focus on her good looks and skimpy wardrobe and slight her acting. The fact is, though, her acting in this movie is probably her strongest attribute. Throughout the film, Roberts' character comes off as completely natural, believable, and admirable - if not always likeable. Julia Roberts is certainly deserving of her 2001 Academy Award Best Actress award.
Albert Finney (nominated for Best Spporting Actor) plays the gruff, irascible, hard-working, and totally decent lawyer Ed Masry. Finney's Oscar-worthy performance is certainly the equal of Roberts. The chemistry between Roberts, the star of modern-day female movie stars, and Finney, the grizzled veteran of stage and screen, sparkles.
Aaron Eckhart' s portrayal of George, the biker-turned-boyfriend and live-in baby-sitter is a refreshing change from the typical - and expected - Harley-Davidson rider stereotype. As Eckhart depicts him, George is smart, tender-hearted, probably a bit lazy, possessed with a wanderlust he keeps under control, and a thoroughly decent fellow.
How director Steven Soderbergh managed to keep "Erin Brockovich" from becoming another tedious, cliché-ridden legal and family drama is intriguing, and is probably one of the key reasons for the movie's tremendous popularity. It would have been easy to turn "Erin Brockovich" into a film filled with stereotypical courtroom pyrotechnics; long, idealistic speeches about the "little guy" versus corporate America; and characters that are either too easy to hate or too easy to love.
That's pretty much what I expected when I began watching the movie. Instead, I witnessed a film filled with ordinary, decent people... people with faults, to be sure; but all living their lives as best they can. Instead of slick lawyers seeking victory at any cost, there are attorneys zealously representing their clients to the best of their abilities. Instead of hapless, pitiable victims of corporate greed, the townspeople of Hinkley are portrayed as caring, decent, law-abiding citizens whose only concern is the welfare of their families.
What Soderbergh has, in fact, done is present to his audiences a wonderful reflection of American life - the good as well as the bad. At the conclusion of this wonderful film, it's easy for viewers to walk away feeling pretty good... not only about the ultimate outcome of the movie, but also about the fact that we Americans are, for the most part, decent, caring, law-abiding citizens. And that makes "Erin Brockovich" a film well worth seeing!
on June 22, 2001
While "Erin Brockovich" follows a similar plot to Jon Travolta's movie from a few years back, "A Civil Action," this movie is more entertaining and better directed. It's amazing to think that the director, Steven Soderbergh, released Traffic in the same year as this and not many directors since Steven Spielberg in the early 90's (Jurassic Park & Schindler's List in the same year) have produced two attention-grabbers like these in the same year.
Besides the drama involved in the lawsuit against the chemical polluters, one aspect of this movie this is so attractive is it's family feel. Brockovich, played by Julia Roberts, goes through life as a single mother of three and an interesting boyfriend as she tries to be "Superwoman" and save a small town that is slowly dying off from years of groundwater contamination. A great performance by Roberts and equally impressive performance by Albert Finney as her boss.
The DVD has some interesting extras included. Like many modern-day DVDs that are based on actual events, there are a few documentaries interviewing the real Erin Brockovich (and her employers) along with stories from the events that actually happened. (Watch for the sneak cameo of the real Brockovich acting as a waitress to Julia Roberts.) There is a clever short documentary about the filming of the movie included that reveals the director's intentions of making this film as close to the actual historical events as possible. (Which is a miracle in cinema!) Also included in the same documentary are interviews with real-life residents of the polluted town that also filled in as extras at town meetings and other scenes.
The DVD includes a director's commentary and a few other small tidbits. Not entirely impressive with it's extras included, but it's probably because I'm a little biased in that I feel films as good as this should contain many extras that show the magic behind a masterpiece. One of the best films in recent years - and definitely not a disappointing purchase.
on September 2, 2000
Many reviewers will compare Julia Roberts's performance to her more popular films, but stating that this is her best film since "Pretty Woman" would gloss over how unique a film experience "Erin Brockovich" (DVD) is. Having never been a fan of Roberts, I avoided the theatrical release only to be extraordinarily surprised upon seeing it by how well she served the role. Roberts delivers her usual charisma, but also brings an unexpectedly believeable balance of strength and tenderness. Brockovich is a broke single mother who achieved a sort of excellence out of desperation, hunger, and necessity. Roberts's Brockovich is an admirably flawed and driven woman who bludgeons men with her bravado and sexuality without any false neo-feminism nor teary-eyed victimhood so obligatory in female lead roles.
Brockovich is real, fighting the "big polluter", yet director Soderberg manages to give the viewer all they need to have genuine empathy for Brockovich without preaching the virtue of the small town and the single mother versus the implacable corporate entity. No, forget the movie-of-the-week conventions. Similar to "A Civil Action", EB is character driven from Finney's reluctant boss, the chameleon-like Aaron Eckhart's long suffering boyfriend to Marg Hegenberger's horrified realization at the swimming pool. This film depicts how the law works for real people without boring courtroom drama.
The DVD does not contain flashy special effects, but its many outtake scenes and commentary add depth to the characters. Viewing the extra scenes lends a greater appreciation for the real life Brockovich's determination, Roberts's delivery (alternately understated and explosive), and director Soderberg's commentary on editing choices. The supplemental features in the DVD version are more valuable than many other titles' self congratulatory "behind the scenes" documentaries.
on July 13, 2000
I think that almost everyone is familiar with this film version of how Erin Brokovitch took on a large corporation that had knowingly polluted the water supply of a small town, and through their intentional cover-up had adversely affected the health of almost everyone in that town. This is a true life David and Goliath story. Only, in this case, "David's" weapons were chutzpa, perseverance, cleavage, and a big dose of commitment to something she believed in, instead of a sling and a stone.
Brokovitch was no dummy. To the contrary, as portrayed by Julie Roberts, she was bright, articulate (if a little earthy), and always aware of her impact on people. She had a natural empathy that people could feel. Consequently they liked her and responded to her. This applies, from what I've read, to the real life Brokovitch, and certainly to the screen Brokovitch. I also understand that Julie Roberts' manner of dressing was, if anything, toned down a bit from that of the real life Erin Brokovitch. For those who found Roberts' attire distracting, I wonder how you would have responded to the real Erin.
Albert Finney played her boss, a moderately successful "shirt-sleeve" attorney who had a lot to lose if the lawsuit went awry. He gave this role just the right blend of wit, concern, fear, anger, and elation. He's the attorney that we'd all like to find.
I found this movie to be entertaining, well acted, and satisfying.
on April 21, 2001
[Take 1] This is a fine movie about the triumph of a determined woman who fights sexism and snobbery in a worthy battle against the harmful results of corporate greed and government apathy (or is that deregulation?).
[Take 2] This is an in-your-face story about a selfish woman's pursuit of personal success that incidentally benefits a worthy cause.
[Conclusion] Watch it. Decide for yourself. It's a good movie. The modern production values make it a better watch than Silkwood. But it's much more a 90s triumph of personal self-promotion than a 70s battle of good against evil - and that's a shame.