Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
"Erin Brockovich" is "Silkwood" (Meryl Streep fighting nuclear wastes) crossed with "A Civil Action" (John Travolta against pollution) plus Julia Roberts in a plunging neckline. Roberts plays a real-life heroine who helped uncover one of the biggest environmental crimes in history. But her performance upstages the story; this is always Roberts, not Brockovich, and unwise wardrobe decisions position her character somewhere between a caricature and a distraction.
I know all about the real Erin Brockovich because I saw her on "Oprah," where she cried at just the right moment in a filmed recap of her life. She was a divorced mom of three with few employment prospects who talked her way into a job at a law firm, began an investigation on her own initiative and played a key role in a pollution suit that cost Pacific Gas & Electric a $333 million settlement.
There is obviously a story here, but "Erin Brockovich" doesn't make it compelling. The film lacks focus and energy, the character development is facile and thin, and what about those necklines? I know that the real Brockovich liked to dress provocatively; that's her personal style and she's welcome to it. But the Hollywood version makes her look like a miniskirted hooker, with bras that peek cheerfully above her necklines.
Oh, the movie tries to deal with the clothes. "You might want to rethink your wardrobe a little," her boss (Albert Finney) tells her. She inelegantly replies, "I think I look nice, and as long as I have one ass instead of two, I'll wear what I like." Yeah, fine, after she's already lost her own personal injury suit by flashing cleavage on the witness stand and firing off four-letter words. When she dresses the same way to go door to door in a working-class neighborhood where industrial chemicals have caused illness, we have to wonder whether, in real life, she was hassled or mistrusted.