Go to Homepage   Erin Brockovich: Winning Spunk

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r rated, four moon iconUniversal/MCA (DVD), ASIN B00003CXFV
Sexy. Tough. Funny. Caring. Julia Roberts is all that and then some as Erin Brockovich. By the time the credits roll, Roberts leaves little doubt as to why she clenched an Oscar for this performance.

We meet the title character, a twice-divorced, out-of-work mother of three, as she interviews for a job for which she is clearly unqualified. Rejected, she climbs into her ticketed car, pulls off and gets smashed by a careless driver. The misfortune leads her to Ed Masry (Albert Finney, nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his work in this film), a scruffy, second-rate lawyer with a motley staff.

DVD: erin brockovichDisappointed by both the court outcome and her job search, Brockovich's gumption and gift of gab land her a job in Masry's office, where her unconventional attire and a dirty mouth alienate her from her colleagues. When one coworker refuses to assist her with filing a pro bono real estate case, Brockovich stumbles on the information that shapes the outcome of this true story.

Brockovich soon finds herself taking on the behemoth utility company that polluted the waters of Hinkley, Calif., with hexavalent chromium, a rust inhibitor. Brockovich gets to know the residents of this working-class desert town, all of whom suffer from serious ailments, including cancer and infertility, as a result of exposure to the deadly chemical. Brockovich uses her spunk, smarts and, yes, her cleavage, to gather information and motivate residents to take legal action.

But the rewards of hard work fail to provide financial gratification. Broke and lacking health benefits, she lives with "bugs the size of house rats," and the dearth of funds makes finding quality childcare a challenge. Then comes George (Aaron Eckhart), the Harley-riding new neighbor. Unlike the men left to wipe drool from their dangling mouths after an encounter with Brockovich, lucky George gets closer, but he learns that long work hours do little for budding romances.

Best Director nominee, Steven Soderbergh moves the story along artistically. For example, because viewers didn't need to hear details of the car accident after seeing it, Brockovich's description in Masry's office smoothly transitioned into her courtroom testimony. When characters copy important records, the audience views key phrases through the lens of the copy machine.

Screenwriter Susannah Grant also proves worthy of her nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Medical terminology, chemical compounds, legalese and an unrefined protagonist in the wrong hands spells disaster. Yet Grant weaves them seamlessly, creating dialogue and sequences that prove not only compelling, but also totally believable.

In the end, despite its "R" rating (due to mainly to four-letter words) Erin Brockovich will breathe hope into those who doubt the inherent good nature of people (and the intelligence of blondes).

Stacey Carter-Lane

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