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Monday, April 22, 2013

Erin Brockovich

Hello, everybody, and a very happy Earth Day to all of you out there!

For me, Earth Day couldn't be a more appropriate theme for me this year, as this is the day that I begin working in a brand new area where I will be helping sell bags and bags of it!

In all seriousness though, Earth Day has been one of those days that I really feel strongly about. After all, the Earth is (as of 2013 anyway) the only planet we have to live on. We all should be doing our part to preserve it so that our children, and our children's children, and our children's children's children can enjoy it for centuries to come.

Or, at least until the sun explodes, but I don't think we have to worry about that happening within our lifespan.

For as long as I can remember, I've always been environmentally conscious (though admittedly I could be doing more to preserve it). I've participated in Earth Day activities, and I am a firm believer in reducing, reusing, and recycling.

And, because I am a fan of Earth Day, I thought that I would use this space to talk about an environment related topic. And, since today is Monday, I thought of only one possible movie.

We're going to be taking a look at the 2000 film, Erin Brockovich, which starred Julia Roberts as the title character.

And, with this choice of topic...I will tell you that I may end up revealing...a MOVIE ENDING!

I know! I have taken such pride in not revealing film conclusions! But, since this movie is based on a true story, and since I plan on talking about the real Erin Brockovich, I may end up giving away the ending. But, I would still recommend this film anyway because it is fairly good.

So, to begin this look back on Erin Brockovich, I thought that I'd begin by doing a brief character sketch on the real Erin Brockovich...just so you all know how she ended up getting a movie made about her life.

At first glance, Erin Brockovich was not a person who really stood out. Born in Lawrence, Kansas on June 22, 1960 as Erin Pattee, Erin's career began in an industry that was completely different than the career path that she eventually took. In 1981, after graduating from Wades Business College in Dallas, she went to work as a management trainee for department store chain, Kmart. But after less than a year, she found that being a department store manager was not her calling, and she quit to enter beauty pageants, winning the title of Miss Pacific Coast in 1981.

Moving to California in 1982, by the early 1990s, Erin was in dire straits...and this is where the movie begins.

Erin Brockovich” was released in theatres on March 17, 2000, and was made on a budget of slightly over fifty million dollars. Don't worry though, it made five times its budget at the box office, and was one of 2000's most well-received films.

Julia Roberts' performance in the film was especially well received, with her winning a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Actress!

Anyway, as the story begins, we're taken back in time to the year 1993. At that time, the real Erin Brockovich was very close to hitting rock bottom. She was a single mother of three children who was unable to find work, and on top of that, she was involved in a court case trying to sue a doctor for injuries sustained in a car accident. It was supposed to be a slam dunk case, and Erin's lawyer, Ed Masry (Albert Finney) was confident that they would win.

It's just too bad that Erin had a flippant, lousy attitude towards the whole thing. Maybe if she had behaved herself appropriately, the case would have gone in her favour. Instead, the judge ruled against her, and left without any other option, she practically forces Ed to hire her on his staff to “compensate” for the loss. Begrudgingly, Ed agrees, and Erin becomes his newest file clerk.

However, Ed's actions lead to something bigger...and when Erin spots some paperwork regarding Pacific Gas and Electric purchasing the home of a Hinkley, California resident, she seems concerned that there are medical records included in the file. Puzzled, she pays the resident, Donna Jensen (Marg Helgenberger), a visit. Donna simply explained the situation away, but she did mention that she is grateful to PG&E for supplying a doctor paid for from their own pocket, because she and her husband had been suffering from poor health as of late. She had been diagnosed with several tumours, and her husband developed Hodgkin's disease.

This immediately raises some red flags for Brockovich, especially when Jensen mentions the word chronium. So, Erin digs a little bit deeper and discovers a shocking truth...that the water supply in the whole community of Hinkley has been contaminated with hexavalent chronium...which is considered to be very dangerous to humans, and can lead to long-term health detriments, including cancer. She persuades Ed to continue pursuing the case and wins the trust of several people in Hinkley, but can she find a way to get the proof she needs that PG&E knowingly contaminated the water supply despite their claims that the chemicals that they use are safe.

What eventually happens at the end of the film is that a whistleblower finally comes forward, and leads to one of the most incredible courtroom showdowns presented in film. I don't want to reveal exactly what happened, but since it's well known that the real Erin Brockovich continues to fight for environmental rights, I would say that the end result was a victory, wouldn't you?

Of course, I've left out some key details. You still don't know how much of a settlement was given, and there's actually a nice surprise twist at the end involving Erin and her fee.

But, it's important to know that while the film version is mostly accurate in portrayal as to what really happened in the Brockovich case, there are some discrepancies. Erin Brockovich herself pointed out that while in the film, “Erin” used her ample assets (a.k.a. Her cleavage) to get people to trust her, Brockovich claimed that she never deliberately did such a thing...although she also admitted that it was entirely possible that some people were...swayed on their own.

Here's some more trivia.

01 – Director Steven Soderbergh was up for an Academy Award for Directing, but ended up himself! “Traffic” won the award, which was also directed by Soderbergh!

02 – The car crash at the beginning was achieved by digitally combining scenes of Julia Roberts driving the car and a radio controlled car being hit by a stunt driver.

03 – The real Erin Brockovich reportedly sold the rights to her story to Universal Studios for a modest $100,000.

04 – Julia Roberts forgot to thank one important person in her Academy Award acceptance speech...Erin Brockovich!

05 – Less than a year after she wrapped up filming, Marg Helgenberger won the role of Catherine Willows on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. She would stay on the series until 2012.

06 – Erin Brockovich makes a cameo appearance in the film...ironically enough playing a character named Julia.

07 – Ed Masry also made a cameo in the film, appearing in a restaurant scene. He would pass away in late 2005.

08 – Aaron Eckhart's character George, was based loosely on a Mexican-American biker that Erin used to date.

09 – There's a bit of a goof-up in terms of chronology. The stamps that are used were worth 33 cents (then the postage rate for 1999). The film is set in 1993, when stamps were lower priced.

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