A David versus Goliath true story done right by Soderbergh, featuring two outstanding performances from Julia Roberts and Albert Finney.
Cast: Julia Roberts, Albert Finney, David Brisbin
Plot: An unemployed single mother becomes a legal assistant and almost single-handedly brings down a California power company accused of polluting a city’s water supply.
Awards: Won 1 Oscar – Best Lead Actress. Nom. for 4 Oscars – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay.
Subject Matter: Moderate – Individual vs. Corporation
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
First Published: 8 Jun 2009
2000 was the Steven Soderbergh year. Nominated for Oscars for Best Director for both Erin Brockovich and Traffic in the same year and winning it for the latter, the hit-and-miss director has achieved another personal milestone since his sharp Palme d’Or-winning debut with Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989).
Erin Brockovich is an exposé film based on the true story of a working-class mother’s quest to bring a huge corporation to its knees. She talks her way into a job in a law firm and co-heads a winning investigation into industrial pollution by that corporation which has devastated a local community for decades.
Julia Roberts stars as Brockovich in an Oscar-winning role that showcased her acting range, defying critics who typecast her as a pretty face in romantic comedies. Albert Finney in an Oscar-nominated role plays Ed Masry, the head of a small local law firm who unwillingly recruits Brockovich out of pity.
“I hate lawyers. I only work for them.”
Their performances are a joy to watch, over-the-top and funny at the same time. While both of their characters generally dislike each other, they realise over time that they are indispensable to one another.
The film is stylishly shot with rich colours though this is upstaged by the sexy wardrobe worn by Roberts. In almost every shot, Roberts is seen wearing a mini-skirt and a revealing blouse, exposing much of her tanned, beautiful skin in what could be the sexiest movie mom role ever conceived.
Composer Thomas Newman’s score is one of his best, an upbeat and rhythmic accompaniment to the film’s fresh tone.
Even though it is in many ways a Roberts-Finney show, Erin Brockovich never strays from the issue at hand. It builds on the story rather than diving full-fledged into social sentimentalism and lengthy court scenes. In a nutshell, this David versus Goliath story is refreshingly done.