Saturday, April 17, 2010

Defending Julia

Erin Brockovich
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Julia Roberts, Albery Finney, Aaron Eckhart
Released: 3/17/00
Viewed in theaters: 3/21/00

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (lost to Gladiator)
Best Director - Steven Soderbergh (lost to....himself for Traffic - heh)
Best Actress - Julia Roberts (won)
Best Supporting Actor - Albert Finney (lost to Benicio Del Toro for Traffic)
Best Original Screenplay - Susannah Grant (lost to Cameron Crowe for Almost Famous)

I know it's a popular opinion to hate on Julia Robert's Oscar win for this film and I know she induces a lot of eye rolling when she makes it all about herself at awards shows (hey, I was rolling my eyes right along with all of you when she proclaimed "I LOVE MY LIFE!!!" right before presenting Denzel with his second Oscar, (but I did laugh when she told the conductor to put his stick down during her own speech)) and while I don't think she's done anything great or memorable since Erin Brockovich, I do think she deserved to win the Oscar that year. Yes, it was totally predictable she was going to win (even EW said her probability of winning was 100%) and her superstar status also probably helped, but I don't think you can deny that this is her best role to date.

What I think makes it a great performance is that she plays a real, everyday woman. Yes, obviously Erin Brockovich is a real person (who is actually from Lawrence, Kansas, not Wichita like the movie says!) but Roberts tends to play characters with cool, glamorous jobs who wear beautiful clothes and who are super intelligent - basically characters nobody can relate to. However, with Erin, she's playing a single mother with barely any money in her bank account who struggling to find work. Now maybe not everybody has it that bad, but I'm sure more people can relate to that type of character than the other ones Julia plays.

As you probably know, since I'm assuming most people have already seen the movie, Erin Brockovich exposed a plant that had contaminated a neighborhood's water supply and won her clients beacoup d'argent. Her story is pretty amazing considering she had no real job skills and acquired the job at the law firm by demanding her lawyer give her one for after he lost the case against the doctor who ran into her car and injured her neck and he agrees because he feels guilty they lost the case and she has three children to feed. There's a bit of a clash between them at the beginning because she has no sense of style for the workplace and says whatever is on her mind (many things which would have gotten her fired in the real world!)

Finney plays her boss, Ed Masry and Eckhart plays her new next door neighbor love interest. He's kind of a prick because he makes Erin choose between her job and him since she's so busy with the case and doesn't have time to be with him. His character wasn't very fleshed out, so I'm assuming this was a character they put in just for the movie. Even though they break up they seem to be friendly at the end.

Julia Roberts plays Erin Brockovich with humor and passion and you believe she really cares about the cause and people she's fighting for. I will tell you right now I'm not a huge Julia Roberts fan, but I will always agree with her Oscar win for this role.

2000 was a great year for Steven Soderbergh: two of his movies were nominated for Best Picture, he was twice nominated for Best Director (a feat that's only been done once before - correct me if I'm wrong, please!) and won and one of his movies acquired the Best Actress statue while the other acquired the Best Supporting Actor award.

A solid movie that's still enjoyable after multiple viewings.


  1. You know, Julia was in a movie last year...what was it called, Duplicity? That was supposed to be good, but I haven't seen it. I think she was up for a Golden Globe. I sort of lost my interest in her somewhere in the mid 90s.

  2. Eh, I saw "Duplicity" and I didn't think it was that great. Not bad, but not great. And she didn't deserve to get a GG nomination!