SHADOWS AWARD: BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR ALBERT FINNEY
dir Steven Soderbergh • scr Susannah Grant
On the case: Erin (Roberts) apologises to George (Eckhart) - again! - for leaving him with her kids.
with Julia Roberts, Albert Finney, Aaron Eckhart, Peter Coyote,
Conchata Ferrell, Marg Helgenberger, Jamie Harrold, Cherry Jones,
Meredith Zinner, Joe Chrest, Scotty Leavenworth, Gemmenne de la Peña
Review by Rich Cline
Based on a true story, Erin Brockovich tells a tale similar to last year's A Civil Action. But the two films couldn't be much more different. This is an edgy, very funny and still very serious drama about an uneducated yet smart young single mother who finds her niche in the world ... and enables a massive lawsuit at the same time.
Erin (Roberts) is virtually unemployable after spending several years raising her three kids with the wrong men. Now on her own and in need of work, she bullies lawyer Ed Masry (Finney) into giving her a job, and while working on some files stumbles onto a water-poisoning case with huge ramifications. Despite the fact that no one takes her seriously she plows ahead efficiently, and eventually gets noticed! Meanwhile, she falls for her new neighbour George (Eckhart), a biker who becomes a virtual nanny to her kids while she's out on the case.
The story doesn't sound like much, but it's opened up by Soderbergh's confident, offhanded direction, which gets well beneath the surface and lets the actors breathe life into each scene. And that they do. Roberts has never been better--she becomes the blousy, brassy, speaks-before-she-thinks Erin, and lets us see inside her. And she's not afraid to let the rest of the cast steal their scenes, which they do continually (Finney is especially fantastic). The whole film is a breath of fresh air, recognising the importance of the issues at hand but never taking itself too seriously, and unafraid to inject frequent blasts of irreverent humour to keep the characters and situations down to earth. It's rare to see a Hollywood film treat this kind of story with such earthy honesty and no thematic or emotional manipulation at all (although a couple of scenes do get you).
[15--themes, language] 8.Mar.00
US release 17.Mar.00; UK release 7.Apr.00
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"This is based on a true story about a poor single mom (Roberts), with 3 small children, no education, no job and no prospects, who brings a mighty giant to its knees. When her attorney (Finney) fails to win her a settlement in a car accident, she persuades him to hire her. The rest of the 'girls' at the office don't accept her, criticize her wardrobe (personally, I think it is just that they are jealous, and WISH they could pull off those clothes), but she keeps at it - for her children. A Harley Davidson rider (Eckhart) moves in next-door, and after she chews him out for making too much noise one night, they end up friends. Then she is given this file - a pro-bono case - and she is supposed to look into and set it up. After reading the documents, she wonders why medical records are included. Erin smells a rat, the company paid for these people to see the doctor, who then tells them everything is fine? But clearly things are not fine - people are sick, dying, of rare diseases. Julia Roberts looks fantastic in her 'wardrobe' - I read that the real Erin's skirts were actually shorter! - and you can catch the real Erin as the waitress in the one restaurant scene. I felt that Julia played Erin well, smart-mouthed, saying what she thinks, gutsy single mom, fighting for her kids. And I did enjoy the movie. However, it is predictable - even if you had not heard of the case, most people can see where it is going. In the end, she gets accepted by her coworkers for her brains and guts and tenacity. It is a fun, happy-ending movie and I am glad I saw it - just wish I could look like her in those clothes!" --Laurie T, Minneapolis.
"This had so many really good things happening in it, I was disappointed when it was finished. I think this one of the best performances Roberts has ever turned in. She was brash and loud, yet sincere and vulnerable, too. Finney is great - why don't we see him in more films? And how satisfying that such a good film should be a true story, too. The locations were used to great effect - especially the bleached and parched town of Hinkley. And the soundtrack added the final touch - brilliant use of music, especially in the moving scene when one victim of the poisoning vents his rage alone in his garden late one night." --Jo C, West Sussex.
© 2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows
on the Wall
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