Erin Brockovich - * * * 1/2*

Ten years after Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts is still going strong. Erin Brockovich, her latest film, happens to be one of her best, providing her with a powerful role, and pleasing the audience with a deeply moving film.

The title character (Roberts) is an unemployed single mother. She has little education, and no experience, and thus seems to be at a big disadvantage in the job market. However, through a remarkable twist of circumstance, she gets hired to be a legal secretary by her exasperated lawyer, Ed Masry (Albert Finney).

However, Erin is not satisfied being a simple legal secretary, and she soon begins investigating a case on her own. The file which attracts her attention is what appears on the surface to be a simple real estate claim. However, Brockovich quickly uncovers evidence that indicates Pacific Gas & Electric (aka PG&E) may have poisoned an entire community.

As Brockovich gets drawn more and more into the case, using her gut instincts and sex appeal as a substitute for actual legal education, she has less and less time to spend with her family. Luckily, her rough-and-rowdy biker neighbor, George (Aaron Eckhart), happens to be an excellent babysitter. But will the case distract Erin from what is truly important…her family?

The film Erin Brockovich rises or falls based on one crucial factor: Julia Roberts. And here she succeeds, masterfully. It’s a role of depth and magnetism that Roberts hasn’t encountered since Pretty Woman. As Erin, she is able to blend her instincts, smarts, and raw sexuality to create a vivid portrayal of an individualistic woman striving for justice.

But Roberts is not the only one who shines here. The film provides a wonderful part for Albert Finney, as Erin’s bewildered employer. He gets his fair share of the film’s plethora of great lines, and a majority of the best reaction shots in the movie.

The dialogue in the movie simply leaps off the screen. Erin is probably a little foul-mouthed for some tastes, but she is full of snappy comebacks and witty repartee.

The biggest flaw in Erin Brockovich is the lack of a tangible villain. Sure, there’s PG&E as an institution, but that presence is never personified.

If you pause to think about the story, it tends to be slightly mundane. Luckily the great performances and dialogue never give you a moment to pause, and the end result is one wonderful film.

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