Rated R. Our content rating: Violence 1; Language 5; Sex/Nudity 5
God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
“How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked?
Give justice to the weak and the orphan;
maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
Julia Roberts shines in this, her best role in a long time, as an uneducated woman whose insistence on wearing inappropriate clothing causes others to underestimate the brilliant mind contained within a sexy body. Erin Brockovich is a twice-divorced mother of three when we first meet her, drifting from job to job because of her outspokenness. Her brazenness possibly costs her a favorable verdict in a lawsuit when a doctor ran a stop sign and smashed into her car, injuring her. Flat broke, she convinces her lawyer Ed Masry (Albert Finney) to hire her.
With her skirts little wider than her belt and a sharp, take-no guff attitude Erin is hardly likely to become employee of the month. Relegated to filing papers, she becomes curious about a pending land deal–why are there medical records included in real estate files? She secures permission from Masry to go and investigate, almost getting fired because she stays away so long without reporting back. But the results of her interviews with the people are compelling–a huge corporation is apparently covering up the fact that a type of chromium it has been dumping in the area for years has led to the illness and death of a great many of the people who have worked for it and lived nearby,
Ed Masry calls in a larger law firm to assist in the case, which almost leads to Erin’s undoing and the loss of the case. The posh new lawyers do not look fondly on Erin, discounting her arduous work of interviewing hundreds of victims, and even more, her ability to get them to open up and reveal intimate details of their lives. The confrontations between her and the sophisticates, especially with an uptight female lawyer, are rather broadly played, realism probably being sacrificed for drama and humor at this point. There seems to me even a touch of the old Hollywood romanticism that suffused Julia Roberts’ role in Pretty Woman, that as long as you have a heart of gold, outward behavior and appearances are not important.
This is another film in which the villain is somewhat abstract, a giant, soulless corporation whose officers are so obsessed with the bottom line that they do not care what happens to people who suffer from the pollution emanating from their operations. Erin sees their legal battle as one between “David and–what’s his name?” Only Goliath is not as visible as in the Biblical story–and yet the battle is just as real, with real consequences for hundreds of victims of corporate misdeeds Such films as A Civil Action, The Insider, and now Erin Brockovich are the more prominent of films which hold up the modern corporation as the villain to beat in the struggle of good versus evil.
In Erin’s case the cost of the struggle is great, the sacrifice of her relationship with her children and with George (Aaron Eckhart), the next-door neighbor watching her kids. George is a biker able to get work when he feels the need for money. Attracted to her, he agrees to take care of the three children while she devotes herself to researching and interviewing hundreds of people for the lawsuit. This keeps Erin away for days, and even when she returns home, it is often late at night. George finally has enough and walks out. His appearance, too, belies what is inside him: he looks like a rough and ready biker, but his gentle nature longs for a home with children and stability–things which Erin, so absorbed by her work, is not ready for, yet. Erin’s oldest son Matthew becomes so upset with his mother’s constant absence during the evening that he stops speaking to her. He only comes to accept and forgive her neglect when he reads some of the papers she has brought home and understands how victimized the people are his mother is trying to help.
Good scene between George and Erin: He asks her to quit so that she can spend more time with the children and himself. She tells him that she can’t, that now she feels a sense of respect from others. ‘All my life I’ve bent my life around what men want, and I am not going to do that…” We can understand and side with George in this exchange, and yet at the same time feel the urge to stand up and cheer for a very gutsy lady prophet, albeit a prophet in miniskirts. Hosea might accept her, but I suspect Isaiah and Jeremiah might not.