Erin Brockovich
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On paper, _Erin_Brockovich_ bears more than a passing resemblance to
1998\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\s _A_Civil_Action_. Both are vehicles for major Hollywood stars
(respectively, Julia Roberts and John Travolta); both are based on true
stories; and both stories are about a legal crusader helping the
residents of a small town battle a large corporation that has been
contaminating the local water supply. Despite these striking
similarities, there remains one key difference: while treating its
serious subject matter with the gravity it deserves, _Erin_Brockovich_
also manages to be a lot of fun.
That fact owes a lot to the film\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\s vibrant title character, one that I
imagine even Hollywood would have difficulty creating if reality hadn\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ .
Erin (Roberts) is a vivacious, twice-divorced mother of three who, as we
meet her, is not doing a very good job selling herself at a job
interview. The scene is short, but its few minutes vividly depict the
delicate balance that Roberts and director Steven Soderbergh achieves
throughout the film\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\s entire two-hour-plus running time. The scene is
undeniably funny, its humor heightened by Erin\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\s trashy mode of dress and
the increasing desperation of her words. But one laughs at the situation
and not her; in Roberts\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ eyes one can catch the underlying sadness and
seriousness of the situation, plus the gradual awareness that she\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\s
fighting a losing battle. For the most part, _Erin_Brockovich_ plays in
a similar way; one is consistently engaged on a purely–for lack of a
better term–\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\”entertainment\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\” level, but providing an underlying
foundation is something that lends the proceedings a bit more dramatic
The major \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\”something\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\” in _Erin_Brockovich_ is the aforementioned case
involving the residents of Hinkley, California, whose water supply has
long been contaminated by the large PG&E corporation. Through some
not-terribly-convincing plot machinations, Erin gets a job as an aide to
attorney Ed Masry (Albert Finney), and it is through her work there that
she gets personally involved with the plight of the Hinkley citizens,
many of whom are suffering grave illness due to prolonged exposure to the
poisoned water.
Erin is brassy, smartmouthed, and, most important of all, not a lawyer,
and the bulk of the film\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\s enjoyment derives from the ballsy, carefree
way she conducts her research and life in general. She is also
unabashedly a woman, not afraid to call upon her feminine wiles to get
her way–allowing Roberts to be more brazenly sexual than she has since
her career-making turn in _Pretty_Woman_. Roberts also has never been so
ideally cast since that film; the kookiness of her character gives her
ample opportunity to flash that trademark smile of hers (not to mention a
few other assets) while giving her a chance

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