Erin Brockovich

***1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Julia Roberts can act. That's the first point - in case anyone didn't know. Secondly, she acts better in minis and cut-offs, with tops designed for the marketing of upper body parts. Thirdly, without a star flaunting it, who would go to a movie with a title as unpronouncable as this?

Erin is a real person. The film has that based-on-a-true-story tag, which always adds interest, especially when dealing with such an emotive subject. She is an ill-educated single mother, with three kids, no money, a couple of ex-husbands and a foul mouth.

When Ed Masry (Albert Finney), a small town Californian attorney, fails to win her damages after a car accident, she storms into his office demanding a job in recompense. Her abrasive personality causes consternation in such a conservative establishment. To keep her quiet, Masry allows her to follow up a real estate enquiry out in the desert at Hinkley, because she has noticed something odd in a medical file.

What follows is the uncovering and indictment of a scandalous case of a multibillion dollar corporation lying to its workers about water contamination, which, over the years, has caused severe illness and premature death.

At the centre is this mother of three who knows nothing about the law, but everything about human frailty and the need to fight for the right to be heard.

The David and Goliath subtext, in addition to Erin's well endowed human qualities ("I was Miss Witchita, for Chrissake! What happened to me?"), is pushed to the fore. Steven Soderbergh (Out Of Sight, The Limey) withholds his trademark camera tricks in favour of straight reportage. Finney adds definite class to Roberts high octane performance.

In the end, this is a court case, a very important court case, involving months of patient investigation. It is a tribute to legwork.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Erin Brockovich packshot
A feisty single mother uncovers a toxic scandal.
Amazon link

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Writer: Susannah Grant

Starring: Julia Roberts, Albert Finney, Aaron Eckhart, Peter Coyote, Marg Helgenberger, Cherry Jones, David Brisbin, Dawn Didawick, Conchata Ferrell

Year: 1999

Runtime: 131 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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