Erin Brockovich (2000)
Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * * ½

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Having convinced an attorney (Albert Finney) to hire her, Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts), a single, unemployed mother, discovers that a large corporation has been systematically polluting the water of a small town, causing its inhabitants a variety of health problems. She then convinces her employer to investigate the matter further and helps him to prepare a legal case against the corporation.

Steven Soderbergh's Erin Brockovich is a predictable but well made film, and Julia Roberts' performance as the title character is almost certainly the best of her career. Thanks to her abilities, those of the other actors, and the skill of the director, the movie is both consistently engaging and genuinely affecting.

There may not be much in Erin Brockovich that is terribly surprising or innovative, but the film is, nonetheless, always well crafted. Soderbergh manages to elicit sympathy for the tough but lovable Erin, her difficult but lovable employer, and the various suffering townspeople they represent. He is also able to balance a number of other emotions with the evocations of compassion which dominate the film. He is, for example, able to arouse feelings of love when depicting the relationship between Erin and her neighbor, feelings of anger directed towards unscrupulous attorneys when showing their amoral, hurtful actions, and feelings of humor interspersed at different points. The film's wit may not always be the most original, but it is consistently entertaining and emotionally satisfying. Barbs are always directed against those towards whom we desire them to be directed. Finally, I should note that while the movie's resolution is easily foreseeable, it is, not surprisingly, genuinely gratifying.

Although Erin Brockovich is far from being a great film, lacking any qualities suggesting a deep aesthetic sensitivity on the part of the director, it is well made, well acted, and generally appealing.

Review by Keith Allen

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