Oscars Project: Movie #2

This is going up a little later than planned--after a pleasant, much-needed happy hour with some co-workers, I got a little lost in--no surprise here--the video rental store. I got two more rentals for $2 and change. I love coupons and discounts. (Take that, On Demand.)

(Explanation of The Oscars Project found here. And need I say it? This post contains SPOILERS.)

From 2000: Erin Brockovich

Based on a true story, this film follows twice-divorced (and foul-mouthed) former beauty queen Erin Brockovich (played by Julia Roberts, who won Best Actress) as she tries to support her three children and winds up helping an entire town that had been poisoned by the local power plant. It all started when she had the boldness to demand a job from the lawyer (played extremely well by Albert Finney) who had promised her an "open and shut case" with regard to a personal injury claim after a car accident--not anticipating that opposing counsel would provoke the spitfire plaintiff and torpedo the case!

What I liked:

1. The cast. I'm not really a Roberts fan, but I have to give her credit on a flawless performance. Albert Finney, Aaron Eckhart, and the actors who played Erin's children could not have been more right.

2. The children. I don't know if this was something for which the director (Soderbergh) was responsible, but the kids did not come off cutesy or saccharine. In fact, I had the subtitles on--they tend to bring out the background dialogue we usually miss--and the kids were, well, natural kids. No coached dialogue. When they were playing with biker dude neighbor George (Eckhart), they were really playing. Creating that air of authenticity is something of an art.

3. The first half was really compelling. I watched about 45 minutes the first night, and it was tough to turn the DVD off and get ready for bed.

4. As a somewhat recent convert to Bones, I was amused to see a very young Dr. Hodgins playing a corporate representive!

5. This one's for the guys--I have to admit, Roberts' front porch looked good. (Her legs looked like sticks, though.)

6. Wardrobe. You never knew what kind of outrageously scandalous totally-late-'90s outfit Erin would be sporting (before she started dressing a little more seriously as she grew confident in her job).

What wasn't so great:

1. It was hard to tell the passage of time at some points. Sometimes it was the next day, sometimes it was a month. I think.

2. It ran a bit long. Near the end, it started to drag and I was hoping it would wrap up shortly.

3. The excessive use of the f-word. I'm not a prude, but sometimes the dialogue was scalding my ears.

Overall, not a bad movie. I did a little research and was a bit amazed that this scrappy little movie was nominated for Academy Awards alongside a strong but really diverse group of films (Gladiator, Crouching Tiger, Billy Elliot), and that Julia Roberts beat out some seasoned actresses (Joan Allen, Ellen Burstyn). I think the movie was extremely well-cast, and that made the film such a standout.

Cinematherapy authors Peske & West recommend this movie as inspirational for when you're "feeling suffocated by the turtleneck of your life," noting that, as this film was pre-9/11, it's chock full of optimism and faith in the arrival of opportunities (p. 13).

Always a good film to watch when you want to root for the underdog, not to mention the good guys.

Next up: Adaptation (Get ready, Cullen.)


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