What is better than a well-written female character? A well-written female character based on a real life person. Though one has to be careful there. Just because a movie is based on a real-live event, it does not mean that everything in it is true, or that the characters are portrayed accurately. So, for the sake of clarity, I will discuss the Erin Brockovich portrayed in the movie and not the real one.
This was easily Julia Roberts best performance and the academy award she got for the role was well deserved. The role was practically made for her. She doesn’t really work that well in overly serious roles because, well, the best part of her is her smile and charming personality. That doesn’t mean though that she can’t sell scenes with levity. In this role, she could show her best and I have a hard time to imagine any other actress in this role.
Looking at Erin Brockovich on paper, her life story is already prime material for a layered and well-rounded character. For some reason people like the believe that the prom queen and the jock will later on have a miserable life while the nerd will succeed. Now we get the story of a former beauty queen whose life is pretty much fucked up, having to raise three children on her own while struggling from job to job. This is normally not the kind of person we expect to do something impressing (not that having sole responsibility for three children and raising them successfully is something to dismiss). And yet Erin discovers a poison spill and does her part that the company responsible has to pay for it. She becomes the voice in the masses who stands up and leads them to victory.
But that’s not the main reason I picked her for this article. I picked her because she is not portrayed as some kind of angle or perfect mother or superwoman. She does have flaws, for starters are very defensive attitude and a tendency to take out her frustrations on other people. You can hardly blame her co-workers that they are not endeared by her when she calls them names, or that he boss is not happy about her just ignoring his well-meant suggestions.
I admit though that it is quite satisfying when she is able to show her worth to people who initially dismissed her because of her lack of education. At the same time, she is not portrayed as “smarter”, just as more understanding for the plight of victims, and therefore better able to connect with them. She is ready to fight for them, but she often doesn’t know what has to be done to reach her goal. There are a lot of scenes in which her employer has to explain to her that it is not enough to be right and how the law system really works. Well, she would put it this way: “Look, I don’t know shit about shit but I know right from wrong!”
Also, quite realistically, she does struggle to be there for her family and lead her crusade. It’s understandable that her children and her boyfriend feel shoved aside by her. At the same time it is understandable why she considers what she does so important. Not because she wants a better job or more money (not that she isn’t unafraid to demand what she wants), but because she cares. Nevertheless, she isn’t some kind of martyr. She really does appreciate to be needed and respected by those people, too. And isn’t that a desire everyone can relate to?
Quote: ” NO, no… I hate lawyers. I only work for them.”
I recommend this movie to everyone. The topic might look a little bit dry for some people, but the movie itself isn’t. The only critic I have is that some minor characters are designed to be stereotypical antagonists. But otherwise it balances perfectly the fun moments with the more sad ones, the serious themes with some really fun characters.