Written by: Sussannah Grant
Starring: Julia Roberts, Albert Finney, Aaron Eckhart, Marg Helgenberger, Tracey Walter
Large corporate conglomerates get away with so many shady practices partly because having any single individual go up against them feels like an impossible task. These corporations have top lawyers on retainer and can use the legal system to wash away any complaint. It just takes someone with the willingness and tenacity to not let go who can make the difference. Erin Brockovich tells this story with the help of a commanding lead performance.
Struggling to pay the bills and caring for her three kids, Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts) needs to find work quickly and does so with a law firm. When looking into the case of a sale, Erin discovers that Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has been injecting dangerous toxins into the drinking water of the people in Hinkley, California. With her perseverance, she begins the trek to bring these people their due.
Big class-action lawsuits result from a collection of people claiming to be wronged by a provider in some way. The more people agreeing to be part of the aggrieved party adds power and pressure, but also plenty of variables. Erin discovers this when she decides to take on this PG&E head-on not for monetary gain but rather to do the right thing for a horrendous injustice done to a group of people. Having Erin take on this conglomerate adequately describes the struggle she needs to tackle as a single mother of three. Tenacity and effort become the keywords to demonstrate how even a giant can be toppled for its negligence.
Working in the law field without the sophistication generally expected, Erin solidifies herself as someone who will never pretend to be different from her true character. She dresses how she likes and talks in the manner she deems to be appropriate. This certainly did not help her at the beginning of the film, but she combines it with strong work and it gets her actually holding a large company accountable for their lack of care, go figure. Several moments throughout the film have the Pretty Woman impact where Erin derides individuals judging her based on her appearance and the way she speaks. It provides a similar catharsis, but in this film, she proves them wrong not through the money given to her by a client but instead by demonstrating she’s far more equipped to be in the same space through pure hard work.
Those moments contribute to making this the underdog story it truly represented in the real world. Stories like this one don’t happen often. To see someone with all of the expectations in the world of being a single mother of three to then get involved in one of the largest successful class-action lawsuits do not occur everyday. Erin proves not to be some ambulance chaser, but rather someone who notices an injustice done to the people of a community and how they were consistently lied to and decided to do something about it. No law degree or extensive experience, but instead genuine care for the people involved, which ultimately makes the big difference.
Even with Erin Brockovich showing the grinding work it takes to put together a lawsuit of this size against a corporation with endless resources, it balances the personal side of the character as a strong partnership making it a strong film. When shifting between Erin’s work duties and personal obligations, never did it feel like an imbalance in the narrative importance. It creates two sides of a complete picture forming the character we follow for this story. The narrative becomes more than either half but rather a collective whole.
Julia Roberts headlines this feature which eventually turned into her Best Actress Academy award with good reason, as she fully portrays this real person. She becomes someone we can all recognize, as an individual trying their best to handle everything life throws at her. Inspirational to say the least, this film shows the struggle of trying to do anything with the sole responsibility of three kids and while it takes a Herculean effort seemingly, there are plenty of women doing that without the recognition. Roberts captures the tenacity and strength of this character while also embracing the faults and how she may fall short at times.
In a nation of laws but corporations seemingly get away with murder, Erin Brockovich shows a time where accountability was held, and it really happened, believe it or not. The film carries plenty of entertainment value and allows Julia Roberts to have some fun in this role while also displaying what makes Brockovich such an inspiring figure.