Erin Brockovich Movie Review

Besides having the hardest-to-type title of a movie since Being John Malcovich, what will be the legacy of Erin Brockovich, an unabashed Julia Roberts star vehicle that, coincidentally, also tells the story of the largest direct-action legal settlement in American history?

It won't be for its aura of jurisprudence. As a primer on the U.S. legal system, Erin Brockovich is not terribly compelling. The legal mumbo-jumbo is all there and feels accurate enough, but the heart of the movie simply doesn't rest with the details of the case, which features Pacific Gas & Electric poisoning 600 people in a small California town with chromium (and then telling them it's good for them).

While it's not a class-action lawsuit, the case has essentially the same details as A Civil Action and any number of other Verdict clones, with nearly-bankrupt attorneys who risk it all on One Big Case.

And while the mind wanders when the film turns toward the perils of fighting The System, your eyes light up when Roberts takes the stage. Erin Brockovich is her movie. And while Albert Finney steals a bit of thunder as her grumpy boss, it's Erin's brassy, white-trash, amateur investigator that makes you want to watch this movie, all 2 1/2 hours of it.

That, and the fact that none of Roberts' outfits seem to be able to cover her brassiere. To say the least, Roberts is breaking new grounds in cleavage with this film -- anticipate much to be made of her "new look". That said, it's fabulous to see her in an atypical role, far away from the sap and formula of recent fare like Runaway Bride.

With the exception of Finney, the supporting cast is lackluster. Aaron Eckhart tries awfully hard as Erin's Harley-lovin' yet family-friendly boyfriend, but the role doesn't really suit him. While attempts are made to humanize them, the victims are all pretty much the same character, each battling one tragic disease or another.

It's obvious that indie breath-holder Stephen Soderbergh (Out of Sight, The Limey) is behind the camera. Shots are regularly hand-held, close-ups are regularly extreme. The film looks different, but in the end it's really just more of the same fist-waving we've seen before. A good film, not great, not terribly compelling, but featuring a slam-dunk performance by Miss Roberts in a season of otherwise unwatchable films.

All of which may leave you wondering, Is PG&E still this awful? Last year somebody at the company flipped the wrong switch, and the power went out in San Francisco for a full day. I think a few lawsuits are pending.

Brock with baby.

Comments

Erin Brockovich Rating

" Good "

Rating: R, 2000

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