Erin Brockovich

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Year Released: 2000
Rating: 2.5

I admit ... I was almost swayed here. I actually typed the title into my other film list for 'recommendable movies,' complete with a three-star rating. But after reading some criticism online, regarding other people's assessments of the film's flaws, I reconsidered, and took it off the list, reestablishing the previously-held purity that list possesses. I believe I was tricked by two things: the title card before the showing stating it's "based on a true story" (with the word "based" being dubious) and Roberts' performance - who, I might add, is pretty damn proficient as the title character - considering I don't really think of Roberts as anything more than a glorified model (sorry Julia). Now, I won't take the commonly-held (and commonly-criticized) position that her attire is too provocative or anything like that, or that her breasts steal the show, because you could always point to other movies and blame them for too much sex (End of the Affair) or gratuitous violence (pick one) that detract from the story. Essentially, this is a mixture of A Civil Action's plot and Norma Rae's characters, with Roberts playing the Sally Field role and the main plotline dealing with a leakage of harmful chemicals into the water supply of a California town. It starts off fine, but things don't feel like they fit in right after closer examination. Two examples: 1. The heavy-handed sentimental edge Soderbergh places on Brockovich's neglected kids (naturally, this 'edge' is dropped at the end of the film, and the kids are never mentioned again - they served their function by that point and were no longer needed) and 2. The sexual relationship between Brockovich and her Hell's Angel boyfriend, played by a thoughtful, passive Aaron Eckhart, who is also dropped at the end of the film (this, like the kids, only served a function, and never feels genuine), etc. Also, the way the film sets up how Erin as the 'voice of the people' (a communist siding with the proletariats against wicked Pacific Gas & Electric and their capitalist pig regime) is groan-worthy, and when a lawyer driven by protocol takes over Erin's grassroots campaign, the disease-riddled, one-dimensional townspeople (who we know only the basic facts about) get rowdy because they 'trust' Erin's non-professional mannerisms over crafty, dollar-driven business-types decked in Armani. The length is also exacerbating - the film gets to be a little meandering at times, and by the time you reach the finale, the payoff feels unrewarding (we never seem to identify with the plight of the poisoned). Like I said, Roberts' performance is good, and worth seeing in itself, Finney is fine as her partner, and the production is slick (a lot of shots are done with a Steadicam; some scenes have a yellowish/jaundiced hue), but all in all, is not as dramatic as it could have been, and questionable in terms of credibility.