Friday, September 9, 2011

Erin Brockovich - capable of greatness

This English class we watched the biographical movie "Erin Brockovich"(2000), with Julia Roberts in the leading role. Before watching the movie we had some time to do research, and read a bit about the real Erin and her story. We also watched a short clip about her. To be honest, I had never heard of Erin Brockovich before, and I didn’t really understand what it was she had done that was so amazing. I decided to let the movie enlighten me on this, instead of a ton of different websites.

Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich

Julia Roberts plays the role of Erin, an unemployed woman, divorced twice and with three kids under the age of 10. In other words, she has not got her life sorted, and is struggling to find a job. The problem is that no one will hire her, as she has no former work experience. As to any mother, her children mean everything to her, and she is in a state of desperation. The feeling that she is not able to properly take care of them is awful, and matters are only made worse when Erins’ babysitter moves from the neighborhood.

Despite having all odds against her, she keeps trying to make her situation better, showing how determined and tough she is. Driving home from yet another job interview, a car slams into her, injuring her neck. She hires the law firm Masry and Vititoe to represent her in trial, because she is, quote :"gonna make the shithead pay for it". Unfortunately luck isn't on her side, and the "shithead" in the other car gets away with it, and she fails to win the case. It is during the scene in court you see the feisty, rude and smart-mouthed side of Erin. The lawyer who had promised her that they would win the case is Ed Masry, and little does he know that he will be seeing a lot of Erin in the future.

A short time later, she is in his office, demanding a job. She says: 
"I'm smart, I'm hardworking, I'll do anything and I'm not leaving here without a job. Don't make me beg." Masry, who feels he's indebted to her for losing the case, gives her a job as a file clerk in the company. This is the start of a long collaboration. I read on a website that their actual relationship was very stormy, and Ed and Erin were known for their loud arguments and use of inappropriate language. The film does depict this kind of relationship between them. In the office Erin quickly becomes unpopular with the girls, because of her brash personality and inappropriate clothing. Brockovich could not care less, and continues on with her work.

A little later, Erin uncovers a case involving water pollution caused by the utility Pacific Gas & Electric in a small desert town called Hinkley. She finds out that there is a connection between the toxic chemicals that have leaked into the underground water and the health problems of the residents in Hinkley. The water is polluted with chromium six which is highly toxic, and was resulting in cancer, nose bleeds and rare diseases for the residents.  Erin becomes very devoted to the case, both professionally and personally as she fights for the justice of the inhabitants. 

The real Erin Brockovich
During the investigation, Erin has missed her little daughter’s first word, and her son is missing her at the dinner table. At one point she says: "Not personal!? That is my work, my sweat, my time away from my kids! If that's not personal, I don't know what is!" Problems keep occurring, like the financial ability of Masry's small law firm to take on such a complex case, but after around 11 months, they succeed. The firm wins a 333 million dollar settlement from PG&E.

This story is really eye-opening and amazing.  A person, who is looked at as a "nobody", was able to make a big difference to a lot of people’s lives. It is about fighting for people’s rights, and revealing corruption. I find this film extra interesting because it was based on a true story, but it is important to keep in mind that everything might not be entirely true.  For example, did the real Brockovich really memorize all 634 plaintiffs and their cases? In fact, she did. Erin once explained that since she suffers from dyslexia, the way she learns is through memorization.

Erin Brockovich's appearance in the film
Another interesting fact is that the real Erin Brockovich actually makes an appearance in the film. When Erin in the movie takes her kids to the restaurant, Erin Brockovich is the blonde waitress. At times I also found the film hilarious. Erin's cheeky remarks and brilliant comebacks spice up scenes that could have been boring, and when she said "We had that water brought in special for you folks, came from a well in Hinkley..", that actually did happen, but in a different context! Today, Erin Brockovich lives in a mansion near Malibu, and runs her own environmental consultancy. She has never had any plans to become a lawyer, and she has no plans to change her attitude or appearance. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow, interesting and funny commentary about the movie. I am glad you liked it! You have some points here that I was not aware of! That is always a pleasant surprise for me when I read students' work. I did not know that Erin was in the movie, that she actually did memorize the names, and that she lives in a mansion near Malibu. Great research! Thank you!