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I need to say right up front that I'm not much of a Julia Roberts fan. Roberts recycles her Pretty Woman hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold image too often. Although this image seeps into the groundwater of Erin Brockovich, I can't deny the movie's overall appeal. Well-acted, interesting and even true, the movie allows us to cheer for the underdog and vicariously vanquish the villainous Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E). 

Erin Brockovich radiates a compelling earthiness. Men relish her "breastiness" -- specifically, her Nerve (left breast) and Verve (right breast). Somewhat naïve in the ways of the law, Erin is cavalier and clever in the ways of the world. And even though Roberts' perfect pair, always on display in this flick, suggests a shameless use of feminine wiles, Brockovich actually gets what she wants through (dare I say it) sheer balls.  

While Erin's breasts undoubtedly impress and surely hold out the elusive promise of something like sex to the men who encounter them, "happy hooker" Julia doesn't use them as one imagines the real Erin might. Although her character swears like a sailor, Roberts' sheer prettiness undermines all attempts at vulgarity -- which leaves her boobs simply and utterly revealed, and shows her to be less an opportunistic dresser than a tacky one. Instead, Roberts' Erin succeeds through her people skills and her real compassion for the people suffering from PG&E's irresponsibility. 

Single, unemployed, and still recovering from an accident she didn't cause but for which she can't collect damages, Erin will not admit defeat. After a fruitless search through the want ads and several dead ends, she ends up back at the office of the personal injury lawyer who failed to win her case. Erin convinces -- nay forces -- Ed Masry, brilliantly portrayed by Albert Finney (Tom Jones), to give her a job. The entertaining and volatile chemistry between the irascible and self-complacent Masry -- who feels dangerously out of his league -- and the high-strung, ambitious, and naïve Erin ignites a chain reaction. 

Erin Brockovich avoids the death-by-ennui fate of some docudramas, offering compelling glimpses into the lives of the people who call the small desert community of Hinkley, Calif., home. The irresponsible behavior of sinister PG&E exposed Hinkley residents to cancer-causing chromium. Erin stumbles across evidence of the crime and refuses to let it go unpunished. Erin's rather innocent approach (she doesn't really know what chromium is after all) allows the story to unfold in a convincing and uncontrived manner. We discover the nasty truth as she does, watching her pierce this mystery through patiently talking and listening to people with an empathetic earnestness that endears her to her community and to us. 

Another Julia Roberts Cinderella story (bippitiy-boppity-boobs), Erin Brockovich's tenacity and passion triumph over insurmountable odds and garner the largest settlement ever paid in a direct-action lawsuit. In honor of Roberts' notable assets, I give Erin Brockovich a perky two guns upů OK, make that a three. 

Jennifer Elcano

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