Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Erin Brockovich

In my youth when I saw the Steven Soderbergh’s enviable double feature of Traffic and Erin Brockovich I cannot deny that the latter was the one that was more enjoyable. However, I was at that strange time when I believed commonness was equated with enjoyment and thus I heavily believed that Traffic was the superior of the two. Years later, I still cannot be certain if Traffic is not the better of the two – but I realise that the ostensible enjoyment one derives from Erin Brockovich belies a smart and elegant interior.
Erin Brockovich is a film that has become equated with Julia Roberts – one of the greatest stars of her time. Of course her Oscar win has become somewhat maligned today but I will not deny that as much as it seems to be a role of pure stardom Julia’s Erin is one of the strongest and most enjoyable female characters of the decade and her line-readings are more than just line readings for the sake of it. Erin is the type of character who we admire all the while noticing her lesser qualities. She’s not perfect, definitely no angel as she prances around in those stiletto heels destroying everything in her path. It’s the sort of rare character that demands a leading lady with an exceptionally strong screen presence and Julia delivers on all counts. But even though the title suggests otherwise, the film is more than just a showcase for Julia and Julia alone. You’d think that the supporting players are relegated to mere caricatures in the presence of such a woman, but you’d be wrong.
Albert Finney’s Oscar nod for his supporting turn is both baffling and satisfying. It’s a performance that is without airs and completely realistic and as Julia’s boss we leave the film with as clear an understanding of Ed as we do of Erin. Aaron Eckhart has the unenviable task of playing “wife” to Julia’s role-reversed heroine. It’s a thankless role, but he holds his own with Julia in that final scene of his reminding us that even though Erin is a hero she is far from a paragon of goodness.
Erin Brockovich is a film that has become exceedingly underrated. The script is witty without being grandiose, casted to perfection with a nice little performance by the wonderful Cherry Jones, and edited fittingly it’s an incredibly enjoyable. It doesn’t fit into our usual thoughts of a biopic, but it’s a credit to its genre. It entertains as much as it edifies and though many look back and criticise its success; it deserved the recognition it attained, including that Best Picture nomination.

Starting this week I'll be looking at 2000 in review.


The Mad Hatter said...

I think it's been a bit too long since I've watched this one (even though I own the dvd).

I believe you've inspired me to cue up a movie night!

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

looking at this definitely won't hurt. in memory it always seems like a generic biopic, but when you watch it's always good stuff.

anahita said...

LOVE this film. it's one of my favourites. julia roberts is one of my favourite actresses - I think she's just such a natural, and this film I think cemented her as a truly serious amazing actress as opposed to rom-com roles (although, tbh, who DOESN'T love pretty woman?) xxxx

joe burns said...

I enjoyed this film on repeated viewings and Julia's performance.

Anonymous said...

I can't think of a film that is harder to nail down than Brockovich. I am firmly in the Traffic camp, but Erin's trials are so inviting, even if the plot turns were occasionally too formulaic for me.

I enjoyed Finney's work the most, but I am an unapologetic admirer of the man. For my money, Two-Face in full biker attire is one of the most surreal turns in the cinema of the decade.

Nigel said...

The fault lies within the Academy itself....Year after year it falls under the mercy of tragic dramas.....So when a different genre comes prancing along, its chances of getting validation are automatically marginal (at least most of the time).

Anyway, I totally agree with you. Erin Brokovich is depicted as a force of nature in real life....Likewise, her biopic needed someone who can easily command an audience.....and Julia fits those glass slippers perfectly.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

anahita spot on about her making it look easy. that's actually one of her strong suits. every line is thoroughly hers.

joe glad you did

james no shame in enjoying finney. i'm always surprised, but glad, they gave him a nod that year.

nigel i agree with you and i disagree with you. people bitch about the oscars and yet are still willing to believe them on all counts. still, like you said, there's always that WTF factor when an off the kilter comedy or obscure dramedy makes the cut.