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Wayback Wednesday: Erin Brockovich (2000)

Erin Brockovich would win the reading challenge on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.

As I’ve shared with just about anyone who will listen, I’ve recently decided that I’m not watching any more biopics released from here on out. To make a long story short, I basically feel icky knowing that movie studios and filmmakers are profiting off exploiting and overdramatizing the lives of troubled (and often deceased) artists and subsequently lauded for doing so. That’s not even mentioning how predictable, clichéd and self-righteous almost all of them come off feeling. So I’m just not watching them anymore. When it comes to biographical movies, I’m much more interested in a movie like Erin Brockovich (2000). A movie that’s based on a timeline of real events and covers a certain period of a protagonist’s life rather than trying to cover their entire life in an hour and 45 minutes. Also, because so much of the movie is based on a legal case, I would assume that leaves little room to sensationalize what really happened. An aspect of this movie that I hope isn’t sensationalized is just how much of a pistol Erin is when it comes to comebacks. The library is ALWAYS open when Erin Brockovich is around! 

Credit: / Universal Pictures / Columbia TriStar Film Distributors International

Based on a true story, Erin Brockovich tells the story of the titular character, an unemployed single mother who becomes a legal assistant and almost single-handedly brings down a power company accused of polluting a city’s water supply.

I have a tumultuous relationship with director Steven Soderbergh. When I watch his movies they either end up being an instant favourite of mine like Ocean’s Eleven (2001) – check out my review, here – or some of the most tedious and unbearable movies I’ve ever had to sit through. Ugh, just check out my review for The Laundromat (2019) here if you need more convincing. Thankfully, Erin Brockovich falls into the “instant favourite” category, a classification that I think anyone watching this movie for the first time would agree with. Even though I’ve seen this movie a few times now I still found myself being completely absorbed in the fantastic performances and the phenomenal writing. Seriously, I was so engrossed in the movie that I barely looked down at my phone to take any notes! Not that there were many to begin with because this is a practically perfect movie. Erin Brockovich is riveting. Even if you’re a casual viewer who just happens to be in the room while the movie is playing, I defy you not to become emotionally invested in Erin’s personal struggle and deeply interested in the outcome of the case she’s working on. As expected with a Soderbergh movie Erin Brockovich is a fast-paced story with many moving parts that culminates in a satisfying finale. But what’s so delightfully surprising is that there also happens to be an endearing, realistic and confident protagonist at the centre of it. 

What I love most about Erin Brockovich is the empowering way it demonstrates how strong one person’s unwavering determination can be and how necessary it is to fight for justice. Especially when it’s against an enormous corporation who have knowingly poisoned a town full of people and then done nothing to actually help them. The title role is fantastically multi-layered and I wouldn’t be surprised if every actress in Hollywood pursued it when the movie went into production. I’m sure there are tons of actresses who would have done a good job with the part but Julia Roberts is simply sensational. Even if you are not a fan of Roberts, Soderbergh, or movies based on real events, if you appreciate powerhouse performances, than Erin Brockovich is required viewing.

If you’re a drama student in search of a monologue to perform you could do no better than choosing from the plethora of dynamic and rousing speeches Roberts delivers with gusto. Erin is so sure of herself in everything she does. She never doubts that there’s an obstacle in life she can’t overcome or a task she can’t accomplish. There are times when she questions whether or not she’s being a good mother but she takes a minute, composes herself and then charges forward knowing that her work is for the betterment of everyone. That’s what’s most appealing about her as a character, a trait that Roberts flawlessly convey through great one takes that showcase just how emotive of an actress she is. It does make you wonder though if the real Brockovich was this much of a hotheaded spitfire. If so I would LOVE to know her in real life. Any time Erin has to put a dowdy, judgemental lawyer who’s just disrespected her in her place? Thats mother.

At first glance the movie may appear to be just your average gritty biopic but it’s so much more impactful than other movies of its kind and thankfully, far less manipulative or exploitative. Erin Brockovich masterfully balances the real, everyday struggles that Erin faces as a single mother with the overwhelming behemoth of a task that is her case against The Pacific Gas and Electric Company. In both her personal and professional life Erin is David going up against Goliath. Erin’s true story is unbelievably inspiring and Soderbergh captures that feeling and imbues every inch of this movie with it. You’d have to be dead inside not to finish this movie and feel compelled to go out into the world and right injustices through hard work and determination. 

There are so many fantastic movies you could watch today to celebrate International Women’s Day, (both about women and made by women) that I would need an entire separate blog to list them all. If you’re in need of a suggestion though, you can’t go wrong with a winner like Erin Brockovich. Endlessly quotable, empowering as Hell and ridiculously well-crafted, this movie is a rousing spirit-raiser sure to put you in a good mood.

Have you seen Erin Brockovich?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!


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