"Erin Brockovich"
A movie review by
Linda Lopez McAlister On "The Women's Show"
Saturday, May 13, 2000

I may be the last person left who hadn't yet seen "Erin Brockovich." It topped the box office charts when it opened several weeks ago butI thought another good film "A Map of the World," needed my critical attention more because it was being trashed by reviewers who didn't understand it or its main character very well. Now, however, "Erin Brockovich" is probably in its last week at local theaters so I thought I should catch it while it's still on the big screen. You probably should too. It's a very likeable film with an interesting plot and good direction by Steven Soderbergh, though sometimes I found his choice of shots a bit manipulative, e.g., one where he puts everything out of focus except what he wants you to be looking at. Its screenplay is by Susannah Grant who also wrote the current film "28 Days," and itis based on the true story of a Los Angeles woman named Erin Brockovich. It is a tour de force acting assignment for Julia Roberts in the title role; it fits her like a glove and she even looks like the real Erin Brockovich (who has been making tv appearances herself in conjunction with the film.) Even better is the great British actor Albert Finney, whom I didn't even recognize, so completely does he transform himself into a small potatoes LA lawyer, Ed Masry, who starts out as Erin's lawyer and ends up, sometimes unhappily, as her employer. When Erin's case is lost and she's left with three small kids to feed and only $74 to her name, she cajoles him to give her a job and an advance on her paycheck.

Erin's life in the office is not altogether happy. The other women who work there are not friendly to her, largely because she dresses in such a way that her cleavage is the first thing one notices about her, but also because she has a mouth and an attitude. This is no feminist paradise; Erin seems to have no female friends. On the other hand, Erin does not let herself be pushed around by anybody; she's truly an independent spirit and her own woman. When Mr. Masry suggests she might rethink her wardrobe, for example, she makes it clear she will wear what she wants to wear, but she suggests that he might want to rethink his selection of ties. She speaks her mind at all times and has, shall we say, a colorful vocabulary that lawyers are not used to hearing around the office.

Her private life is a struggle too. Finding reliable day care is one problem. And she's very alone with her kids. When a biker type named George (Aaron Eckjart) moves in next door, he does not look very promising as a potential friend and lover, but he turns out to be one all the same. This is lucky for Erin who becomes embroiled in a case that takes her away from home for days at a time and requires her to work long hours. The main plot revolves around the people who live in a small Mojave Desert town whose groundwater has been contaminated by runoff from a Pacific Gas & Electric plant. What first seems to be a simple real estate transaction grows and grows into a major class action lawsuit thanks to Erin's dogged work. It's fun to watch her do it. I loved the scenes of the many different townspeople she get to know during the course of her work.

If you want to see Hollywood at its best, catch Erin, either now before she goes to video or later at your video store.

For the WMNF women's show this is Linda Lopez McAlister on Women and film.

Copyright 2000 by Linda Lopez McAlister. Please ask permission before you reproduce this review: mcalister@chuma1.cas.usf.edu.