Reviews: Erin Brockovich

Show me Your War Face!

Erin Brockovich is a movie which I can't help but watch whenever it is on, despite despising everything about it. The film comes across as such as shamelessly nasty story about a deeply unpleasant person living in a fascinatingly ugly world.

Erin Brockovich is a desperate mother trying to protect her kids and get her life in order. But her anger issues are so all consuming, she can barely function as an adult. In what should have been an open-and-shut case to get her much needed compensation, she explodes in the courtroom and manages to convince an entire jury to hate her. To find work, she essentially bullies her lawyer into hiring her, despite her being largely unskilled, unsuited for the role. She refuses to even dress the part, let alone get along with her new colleagues (who rightfully resent her). For most of the movie, she depends on the good will of some random neighbour to look after her kids, but she barely seems to acknowledge the favour until it is too late.

Whilst the movie ostensibly shows these as negative character traits for her to grow out of, it also quietly cheers her on for them at the same time. The film celebrates her tenacity and righteous indignation, and doesn't care how she goes about solving her problems. For instance, later in the movie when a more senior lawyer is brought on to help with the case, Erin can't help but bully her too. The lawyer asks for written information about their clients, so Erin retorts by barking all the information at her from memory. It's meant to be a triumphant show of how much more heart and brains she has, but instead it makes her look like an egocentric asshole who won't help if it means cooperating with anyone she sees as unworthy (read: any professional), even when they are only trying to help.

The sad fact is that it ultimately works. It turns out Erin can get her way as long as she simply pulls the indignant face and stamps her feet. The people in this world are mild mannered and obliging enough to go along with her, and also happy to do the real work in terms of winning the case. The message of the movie isn't a sappy "you just need to lighten up and try to get along", its "your severe attitude problem is not a problem if you are pointed in the right direction". Erin Brockovich is a celebration of a bully.