It never fails to amuse me how the triumphant, touching Oscar-winning moving picture of one decade can turn into just another Julia Roberts movie the next. Universal’s Erin Brockovich found itself one of the most popular, poignant films back in 2000 — a status that continued well after its home video release. Now, however, a mere 12 years down the road, one does not look at the film as an example of one woman’s achievement in real life (as it was based on a true story), but rather sees it as a pretentious attempt to both shine the spotlight on an overrated actress and win an award in the process.
Well played, Universal. As with many other movies to have borne the tagline “Based on a true story,” the magic Erin Brockovich once held (and I must confess I am entirely uncertain that there ever was any here to begin with) had evaporated within only a matter of years following its initial release. As such, the important message many originally saw upon the thinly painted walls of this drama has faded, revealing little more than some poorly-plastered sheetrock beneath (Roberts received nearly half of the film’s budget for her salary, which might warrant you to wonder where the true motive of the movie lay — surely there were far better performers out there in 2000 who would have been capable of pulling this off for far less).
Now, for those of you who somehow missed this one entirely, Erin Brockovich tells the tale of a poor, single mother of three in 1993 Los Angeles who manages to expose the water pollution of a small Southern California town — a shady move on the part of PG&E that eventually had them paying out big bucks to the families they poisoned (it turned out to be one of the biggest lawsuits in US history). An impressive feat for anyone, yes — alas, the whole film reeks of affectation, and most of the characters (as well as their actions) have been whitewashed to appear more “wholesome.” Roberts takes the lead here as the titular character, trying her best not to come across as a self-centered, manipulative, bitchy know-it-all — though it is more than apparent she is.
Also starring in this unjustly-praised mess is the great Albert Finney (who is always a delight to watch, even if he is being upstaged by Julia Roberts in a push-up bra) as Brockovich’s employer, attorney Ed Masry. Aaron Eckhart turns in an early performance as Erin’s love interest (who, in real life, was Mexican-American — nice one, Hollywood!), and Marg Helgenberger (a few months away from television stardom in CSI) is one of the pollution victims. The actual Erin Brockovich-Ellis (who sold her story to Universal for $100,000) appears briefly as a waitress.
Well, after seeing one DVD of this movie after another lining up Walmart bargain bins for the better part of a decade, I had to wonder what Universal would do for the Blu-ray release. The good news (for those of you who care) is that the HD transfer of the film is an improvement over the old Standard Def one. That said, though, most of the special features are the same, with the exception of two tacked-on promos which are found on almost all Universal 100th Anniversary releases (which this one is part of). A copy of the old DVD version is included (they had to do something with them after Walmart returned ‘em all, right?), as is a code for a digital download of the film.
For Julia Roberts fans only.