Erin Brockovich
directed by Steven Soderbergh
(Columbia TriStar, 2000)

I didn't plan to watch Erin Brockovich -- the attractiveness of star Julia Roberts aside, nothing about the story as described in the movie's big marketing campaign captured my interest. But my parents took advantage of my helplessness during my recovery from bilateral carpal tunnel surgery to rent it and force me to watch. Bless 'em.

Erin Brockovich is really quite a good movie. The true story of Erin Brockovich's crusade against a big industry's long-term poisoning of a small town's water supply is not only interesting, it's evocative, emotional and honestly heart-warming. Also, Julia Roberts' portrayal of a woman who gets caught up in a cause despite plenty of problems of her own is inspirational -- in a way which might, perhaps, actually teach a few people to care about each other again. And, as Erin Brockovich demonstrates, sometimes it only takes one or two people to start an avalanche of good will.

Even more amazing, the movie taps into the altruistic nature of lawyers -- a profession not usually associated with generosity. Albert Finney does a good turn as lawyer Ed Masry, who starts the ball rolling with an act of kindness and is utterly steamrolled by Brockovich's mighty force of will. He has no choice, it seems, but to become a high-stakes player in his young research assistant's crusade.

The move is also nice to see a case where big money failed to derail real justice. Way to go, Erin Brockovich.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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