Swearing, thinking, working, walking, talking - any which way one looks at her, Julia Roberts is incredible! She has completely got under the skin of Erin Brockovich, a woman who has enough integrity, grit and determination to take on the world if necessary.
She doesn't have a law degree or any experience of working at a law firm, and conversely, it is her fresh outlook and innovative ideas that ultimately make that firm reach its pinnacle.
Devoted to her three children and equally committed to her work, this phenomenal woman from a lower middle-class family, equipped as she is with her street smarts, outrageous outfits and amazing confidence, comes across an innocent-looking rent case at the law firm and decides to investigate it further.
Her interest is piqued as she heads out to a town called Hinkley, in California, to inquire into the dealings of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company with the town's six hundred and thirty four inhabitants.
What ensues is a battle of wits between the law firm and PG&E, and lots of legwork and mobilizing on the part of Brockovich and her boss Ed Masry among Hinkley's long-suffering residents. We find out that the PG&E plant dumps lethal toxic waste into its ponds, which in turn seeps into the town's water supply, causing all sorts of diseases.
Alonside her career that's on the upswing through her involvement in the case, we're also made to see how Brockovich's family life goes into a temporary decline. Her children and boyfriend George (played by Aaron Eckhart) become estranged from her as she has no time for them. George's character - that of a carefree biker who loves children and is soft, understanding and helpful - has been depicted quite well by Eckhart. Without his performance being what it was, about a quarter of the movie would have fallen flat on its face.
Erin's vibrant, fast-talking, quick-thinking personality teamed with her boss's more quiet, conservative one is the combination that carries the flick on its shoulders.
A thought this film provokes is that the human touch in any situation, be it work or any other, always triumphs over the impersonal, bureaucratic one. This is perhaps because, all said and done, we humans incurably remain for the most part feeling, emotive life-forms.This article was first published on 15 May 2000.