Julia Roberts has tits!
It’s a well-known fact that Julia Roberts can turn the world on with her smile. When she puts her whole bod into it, the very heavens start to fall.
Julia unleashes jugs to die for in Erin Brockovich, and the results are staggering. Roberts got $20 million upfront for Erin, and the film probably covered that within an hour of its release. This is, without doubt, the big-boobs, feel-good movie of the year. It is also sort of an allegory, about how a down-on-her-luck, small-town beauty queen turns into a star, and about how movie stars are the most important people in the world.
All dolled up to look like Paula Jones on a good hair day,1 Julia plays Erin Brockovich, a twice-divorced former Miss Wichita single mom with three kids, C-cups of attitude, and $70,000 in debts, presumably contracted to pay for her killer collection of push-ups, see-throughs, tube tops, tank tops, spaghetti straps, halters, and bustiers. Despite her trailer-trash good looks (not to mention a girlish enthusiasm for geology that later pays off big time), poor Erin can’t land a job. Her luck is so bad that when some big shot in his Jag rams her aging compact broadside, pot-bellied personal injuries lawyer Ed Masry (Albert Finney) screws up her case, so she winds up with bupkis.2
But that doesn’t matter, because Erin Brockovich is a star, goddammit, and when the going gets tough, the tough get going. At the end of her rope, she double-talks Masry into hiring her as a paralegal, pissing off the other women in the office, who apparently resent the fact that Erin 1) dresses like a Bill Clinton wet dream come to life and 2) knows nothing about the law.
But the hostility of others never stopped a movie star before, and it doesn’t stop Erin now. She’s on her way to learning to do what she does best, i.e., manipulate others, and no troupe of fat-assed, civilian-faced bitches is going to slow her down. You might think that audiences wouldn’t enjoy watching a gorgeous movie star ridicule middle-aged women for being middle-aged, but the packed house I saw the film with couldn’t get enough of Erin’s foul-mouthed repartee. Once the lights go down, we seem to identify instinctively with the youngest, best-looking person on the screen.3
Erin quickly catches the scent of a suspicious land deal: Pacific Gas and Electric wants to buy out a family’s home at an inflated price. There’s really no reason for Erin to “investigate,” but she does so anyway (because she’s dedicated, goddamnit!), and tracks down a number of families with similar offers and a shitload of sniffling kids. Can you spell “Class Action?”
Stashing her kids with next-door neighbor “George” (Aaron Eckhardt), an improbably adorable, and improbably virtuous, biker who keeps to a strict no-bong, no-beer regimen, Erin locates literally hundreds of wretched families, all of whom got a heavy dose of Chromium 6-laced water courtesy of PG&E.4 Putting on her trashiest bustiers, Erin cranks up the boob power and sweet-talks a government clerk, who’s about as dumb as Beavis and Butthead put together, into letting her copy the records that nail PG&E’s kid-killing ass to the wall.
We watch, awestruck, as badass Erin metamorphoses into Our Lady of the Compassionate Tube Top right before our eyes. Even a scene in which Erin learns over her car phone that her infant daughter5 has spoken her first word invites us to marvel at her compassion. She can’t be with her kids, because she cares! She’s on the road, fighting for humanity!
For a while, George moves in with Erin, but later on it’s splitsville. She doesn’t need him anymore. She’s too big.6 A star, after all, needs to maintain a certain distance between herself and ordinary people. If you’re Julia Roberts, do you really want to be seen in public with some guy who’s probably had his cock in your mouth?
Even as she’s putting the last few nails into PG&E’s coffin, Erin still has a few bridges to cross and a few bitches to slap. Now that the case is moving down to the wire, Masry makes an alliance with a chi-chi, uptown law firm to help cover the costs and provide some big-bucks expertise. One of these hotshot lawyers turns out to be a woman, naturally, and naturally she patronizes poor little boob-barin’ Erin, giving our gal the chance to knock Miss Candyass Tightpussy right on her you-know-what.
Once Erin has humiliated every healthy woman in Southern California, Erin Brockovich can come to a close. A team of arbitrators hits PG&E up for $333 million, 40 percent of which goes to the lawyers. Erin herself gets a check for $2 million, to the audience’s cheers.
Conservatives must be gnashing their teeth at Erin Brockovich (they do that a lot at the movies). It promotes any number of left-wing populist clichés, including the following:
- Big corporations deliberately pollute the environment.7
- Virtually all illnesses are caused by some sort of corporate wrongdoing.
- The best way for people to get even with big corporations is through class-action lawsuits.
- Trial lawyers deserve the huge fees they earn in class-action suits.
According to real scientists, the Chromium 6 that was dissolved in the water that leaked out of PG&E’s cooling ponds probably didn’t cause any of the illnesses attributed to it in Erin Brockovich. Apparently, the utility concluded that it had a PR catastrophe on its hands and decided that, in the long run, settling for $333 million would be the cheapest way out. So that, far from telling a true story, Erin Brockovich deliberately tells a false one. But, hey. $2 million, $20 million, $333 million, what’s the difference? If it puts a smile on Julia Roberts’ face, it’s worth it.
- Okay, Paula Jones on a great hair day. If this movie has been shown at the White House, and I bet it has, more than once, there must be claw marks on the screening-room walls. [↩]
- In typical Hollywood fashion, we see that the accident is clearly the other guy’s fault, but the jury decides against Erin, even though the guy that hit her is rich and she’s broke. Life is so unfair! [↩]
- For example, early in Good Will Hunting, Will (Matt Damon) subjects the psychiatrist who’s interviewing him (George Plimpton) to merciless ridicule, accusing him of being a lecherous old queer, even though there was nothing in the psychiatrist’s behavior, that I saw at least, to indicate that he was either gay or coming on to Will in any way. And even if he were gay, and attracted to Will, what would be wrong with that, as long as he didn’t try to take advantage of his position? (“Give me a blow job, kid, and I’ll have you on the street in an hour.”) This film attracted a very sophisticated audience, and I saw it in the gayest section of Washington, yet the audience roared with delight at the psychiatrist’s humiliation. The greatest crimes, in Hollywood, are to be old, fat, and have no tan. [↩]
- It’s a bit of a spoiler to learn that a conversation Erin has with a scientist who tells her that Chromium 6 can cause just about every ailment known to man is pure Hollywood hokum. Real scientists say that inhaling Chromium 6 can increase your chances of developing cancer, but it’s harmless when dissolved in water. [↩]
- This child never needs her diapers changed, perhaps because no one ever gives her anything to eat or drink. Why didn’t mothers think of this before? [↩]
- The film doesn’t explain how she manages to take care of her kids and work 18 hours a day now that George has his walking papers. [↩]
- Of course, PG&E probably did deliberately pollute the environment. At least, they didn’t give a damn whether they did or not. But the pollution didn’t cause all the illnesses the film attributes to it. [↩]