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Erin Brockovich

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Erin Brockovich

Starring: Julia Roberts, Aaron Eckhart
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Rated: R
RunTime: 127 Minutes
Release Date: March 2000
Genres: Drama, Comedy

*Also starring: Marg Helgenberger, Albert Finney, Scarlett Pomers, Cherry Jones

Review by Walter Frith
3½ stars out of 4

Sometimes we as critics judge a film to harshly. Admit it. We sometimes look at a film and question its credibility but take a look at life. Who would have thought that we would ever see a trial like that of the famous O.J. Simpson case. If a script like that, with the events depicted in that trial had been offered to the studios for consideration, it would have been thrown in the garbage. I constantly heard it in the media that no script could be written this way, but truth, as they say, is sometimes stranger than fiction. So how then does a borderline burn out with three kids bring a multi billion dollar corporation to its knees and rake in two million dollars from the case herself. That's the question you'll be following in 'Erin Brockovich', a truly great film with the best performance of Julia Roberts' career.

First of all, this is a real life character. Erin Brockovich obtained a job as a clerk for a bottom of the heap law firm and helped in a case where a corporate injustice struck people down in the prime of their lives. It opens as we see Erin in a car accident and her representation is carried out by a law firm headed by a man named Ed Masry (Albert Finney). Finney is great in this role. He takes on an American accent and like his fellow countrymen from the UK who have tried it, such as Michael Caine, Bob Hoskins and Kenneth Branagh, he is great at it. Erin loses her case and is stuck with large medical bills. She hounds Ed's law firm to give her a job and won't leave until she has one.

Her mannerisms in court, that of a highly profane nature, helped her lose her case but her firey p*** and vinegar attitude is sorely needed when she investigates a case that the law firm is considering handling. A property case comes to her attention and she finds that the water pollution around it, carried out by the neglect of a billion dollar corporation, can infect a person's DNA to the extent of causing death. This movie comes a little more than a year after 1998's 'A Civil Action' entertained audiences in a much more subtle manner with similar subject matter but 'Erin Brockovich' has a protagonist who is determined to win. She uses her feminine ways, such as short dresses and skirts and plenty of cleavage to get the information she wants from men.

I haven't really cared for Steven Soderbergh's films much over the years. His over rated effort 'Out of Sight' from 1998 was too stilted to truly enjoy with some actors in roles way over their heads. 1989's 'Sex. Lies and Videotape' and last year's 'The Limey' are probably his best films but 'Erin Brockovich' is a close rival to these films for Soderbergh. The real beauty of the film is the way Soderbergh pays close attention to detail and makes every scene extremely believable in the pursuit of a small law firm taking on a gigantic monster of a company and doing a good job of it. It shouldn't be too hard to figure out the ending of the film but films of this nature rarely end any other way, especially with big Hollywood stars not wanting to cheat their fans but I'm still not giving away the extraordinary details of how the case ends up.

Erin involves herself with a guy named George (Aaron Eckhart), and this needless romantic sub plot is probably what prevents the movie from earning a four star rating but you can't have everything I suppose. The film also boasts performances from actors such as Peter Coyote, Conchata Ferrell, and Marg Helgenberger and these roles could help their careers greatly.

With all of the advanced press Julia Roberts has been getting for this film, I can't leave this review without mentioning the excellent work by Albert Finney who should be Oscar nominated if Roberts is and both of them certainly deserve it at this point. Finney is a guy who has been nominated four times the Oscar between 1963 and 1984 and all of the nominations have come in leading roles. His first role was in 1960's 'Saturday Night and Sunday Morning' and David Lean wanted Finney for the leading Peter O'Toole part in 'Lawrence of Arabia'. He is one of the most under rated of the British actors who makes a great comeback in this movie.

Julia Roberts proves here that she earns every penny of her salary and audiences can revel in the fact that with so many disappointments early in 2000, this film is one of the early year gems that will carry it's quality to next year's Oscar ceremonies. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Copyright 2000 Walter Frith

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