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From the May 2000
Film Review

Film Review Hotline
5 Stars
Albert Finney and Julia Roberts star in Erin Brockovich
I love trouble
STARS: Julia Roberts, Albert Finney, Aaron Eckhart, Peter Coyote, Marg Helgenberger
DIRECTOR: Steven Soderbergh
SCREENPLAY: Susannah Grant
CERTIFICATE: 15 DISTRIBUTOR and Picture copyright:Columbia TriStar
RUNNING TIME: 2hrs 11mins

The gold paint’s only just dried on this year’s Academy Awards and already we’re being treated to a film headed for a clutch of nominations next February.

This amazing, inspiring true story of a smart, determined and sharp-tongued young mother who becomes embroiled in a titanic legal case, is a milestone movie for the talented Miss Roberts. Not only did she reportedly receive a record $20m for the role, but also delivers a sensational performance that for once showcases much more than her natural charm, winning smile and nice hair.

Down-on-her-luck, twice-divorced mother-of-three Erin Brockovich (Roberts) is involved in a car accident. After small-time attorney Ed Masry (Finney, who hasn’t sparkled as brightly in a long time) fails to land her any settlement from the driver responsible, she talks the wimpy Ed into giving her some secretarial work. While filing, Erin stumbles across some medical records contained in real estate documents.

Intrigued, she begins to delve into the case – using her prominent cleavage, forceful personality and vague knowledge of the law to access company records – uncovering evidence that contaminated water has destroyed the health of many members of the local community. Does Ed’s tiny law firm possess the legal muscle to prove that the water company was negligent? Perhaps not, but they do have Erin fighting in their corner.

Although bearing many of the hallmarks of a courtroom drama, little time is spent on the legal perspective – there are only a couple of brief court scenes (Erin’s doomed accident claim and the water company’s appeal against the lawsuit). The emphasis is on Erin’s extraordinary relationships with Ed, boyfriend George (Eckhart) and the ever-growing list of clients.

Despite slight over-length, the film makes for compelling cinema throughout, blending heart-breaking drama with Erin’s hilariously confrontational behaviour, courtesy of screenwriter Grant’s acerbic dialogue – the most quotable since As Good As It Gets.

Although Roberts’ sharp, spirited heroine, is the sun around which the film’s other elements revolve, director Soderbergh has an undeniable talent for bringing out the best in all his cast, as well as a quirky visual personality that never detracts from the film’s authenticity. Although the director’s most mainstream movie, it’s still a million miles away from the safe, saccharine movies that were – up until now – Julia’s trademark. It’s a feel-good movie with one hell of an attitude.

Jason Caro

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Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 2000. Not for reproduction.

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Also reviewed online this month:
4 Stars
BOYS DON'T CRY • released April 7


5 Stars
Once Upon a Time
in the West • April 14
A Clockwork Orange • March 17
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Brother • April 07
Cradle Will Rock • April 21

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American PsychoApril 21
Galaxy Quest • April 28
Love, Honour and Obey • April 07
Up at the Villa • April 14
Ghost Dog : Way of the SamuraiApril 28