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Erin Brockovich

Rated [R], 131 minutes
Starring Julia Roberts, Albert Finney, Aaron Eckhart
Screenplay by Susannah Grant
Directed by Steven Soderbergh

IN SHORT: Get on the line

Here now a Portrait of a Blue Collar Mom in Dire Straits. Twice married, Twice divorced Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts) has three kids to watch and is seventy four dollars away from desperation's door when we first meet her, seeking employment at a doctor's office. Not only does she not get the job, her day is about to get a helluva lot worse. We'll save the shock value of that plot point for the big screen. What happens in that blink of an instant puts Erin on the course to self-realization of her potential; the salvation of a small California town about to get the royal from the local power company.

Ex-beauty queen Brockovich demonstrates incredible determination, lots of bad luck and level-headed balsy-ness (if Erin were a guy it'd be said he was packing a nice pair...) as this adaptation of a true story unfolds. Erin lands a job in the law offices of Masry & Vititoe, where partner in charge Ed Masry (Albert Finney), who owes her big, is constantly looking for a way to fire her. The other women in the joint are jealous of her looks, which are enhanced by a wardrobe a la Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Handling mundane tasks like filing and such, one day Erin opens a folder on a real estate matter to find medical tests within. Not understanding what one has to do with the other, she asks permission to investigate.

The case, in which homeowner Donna Jensen (Marg Helgenberger) and her husband want a bigger offer from power company PG&E to buy their house (PG&E says a new freeway is coming) leads to a story similar to, but lighter in tone than, John Travolta's A Civil Action, in which normalguy takes down big, polluting public utility. In this case, rather than legal and scientific derring do, our hero must go up against a local water board in cahoots with the utility that has told residents that the chromium polluting their water is actually good for them. How does Erin get past the clerk guarding the gates? It's the highlight of the teevee spot. She's packing a nice pair -- and says so -- just a hint of the raunchiness in Susannah Grant's script. Grant also wrote Ever After, also highly recommended.

The difference between the two similarly themed flicks is that in A Civil Action we see a rich lawyer lose everything in defending the common man. In Erin Brockovich, we see a common man with everything to lose take on the big money lawyers and corporations because what's right is right. All through the film, there's a sense on Erin's part that she's gonna get screwed one way or the other by doing the right thing, and the events in the film make her think she's right. This aspect of her character's personality, surprisingly, helps keep the movie light. Think of it this way: straight-edged, boring lawyers versus a firebrand? No contest.

Roberts is perfectly balance by Albert Finney who's as much a crusty old lawyer as Lou Grant was a crusty old boss on the old Mary Tyler Moore show (a nice analogy, as you'll see) and Aaron Eckhart as George, the habitually unemployed Harley freak next door who doesn't mind watching the kids. She also would've given Hilary Swank a real run for her money had Erin Brockovich been released before the end of last year. But it wasn't, so I'll make a note and rave about what a brilliant performance Roberts delivers when we get to the Best of 2000. Her work here is sexy and saucy and sympathetic. It is dramatically solid. It's well worthy of a nomination if anyone remembers the flick come the end of the year. No two ways about it.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Erin Brockovich, he would have paid...


We heard it at our press screening. It was confirmed by posts on the message boards. Credit come up. Hands come together. When was the last time you applauded a movie?

Our LA based Correspondent, Paul Fischer, liked it, too. His review here.

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