Title: Erin Brockovich
Author: Best Actress - Julia Roberts (2000)
Erin Brockovich is a feisty young mother who convinces attorney Ed Masry to hire her and promptly stumbles upon a monumental law case against a giant corporation. Erin is determined to take on this powerful adversary even though no law firm has dared to do it before. The two begin an incredible fight that will bring a small town to its feet and a huge company to its knees.
Much will be made of Julia Roberts’s wardrobe in Erin Brockovich—a brash parade of daring hemlines and Wonderbra confidence. Roberts is unabashedly sexy in the title role of this fact-based comedy-drama, but she and director Steven Soderbergh are far too intelligent to rely solely on high heels and cleavage. Susannah Grant’s brassy screenplay fuels this winning combination of star, director, and material, firing on all pistons with maximum efficiency. With Ed Lachman, his noted cinematographer from The Limey, Soderbergh tackles this A-list project with the fervor of an independent, combining a no-frills look with kinetic panache and the same brisk editorial style he used in the justly celebrated Out of Sight.
Broke and desperate, the twice-divorced single mom Erin bosses her way into a clerical job with attorney Ed Masry (Albert Finney), who’s indebted to Erin after failing to win her traffic-injury case. Erin is soon focused on suspicious connections between a mighty power company, its abuse of toxic chromium, and the poisoned water supply of Hinkley, California, where locals have suffered a legacy of death and disease. Matching the dramatic potency of Norma Rae and Silkwood, Erin Brockovich filters cold facts through warm humanity, especially in Erin’s rapport with dying victims and her relationship with George (superbly played by Aaron Eckhart), a Harley-riding neighbor who offers more devotion than Erin’s ever known. Surely some of these details have been embellished for dramatic effect, but the factual basis of Erin Brockovich adds a boost of satisfaction, proving that greed, neglect, and corporate arrogance are no match against a passionate crusader. (Trivia note: The real Erin Brockovich appears briefly as a diner waitress.)—Jeff Shannon