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USA 2000
Directed by
Steven Soderbergh
130 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Erin Brockovich

Everyone loves a big screen David and Goliath drama and with Erin Brockovich Steven Soderbergh delivers a entertaining addition to the genre.

The then-reigning rom-com queen Julia Roberts picked up the Best Actress Oscar for her vibrant, against-type performance as the ballsy real life title character, a former beauty pageant winner who chose to dress like a trollop but was anything but a bimbo.  A single mother of three young children, Brockovich was desperate when literally she forced L.A. lawyer Ed Masry (Albert Finney) to give her a job as a paralegal after he lost her claim for damages against a driver who slammed into her car at an intersection. One thing lead to another and she became instrumental in a class action Masry’s office led against Pacific Gas & Electric for pollution of the groundwater around one of its plants.

Soderbergh, aided by Sussanah Grant's solid script keeps things focussed on Brockovich’s story (although any Hollywood production glosses reality the real-life Brockovich appears as waitress in an early scene so you can see that Roberts in not entirely too pretty for the role), not overplaying the investigative set-backs or wringing pathos from the actual tragedy which perhaps is kept too much in the background.  Albert Finney provides an engagingly bemused foil to the potty-mouthed Brockovich whilst Aaron Eckhart appears as her improbably charming biker boyfriend.

The ending of the film is rather clumsily contrived and to a non-American audience it may seem odd that the whopping slice of the pie taken by the lawyers (including some sizeable crumbs by Brockovich) is accepted as a given but overall the film emphasizes the feel-good aspects of the genre rather than its gloomier implications as in Mike Nichols' comparable precursor, Silkwood.




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