Film Analysis #1 by Kaylee Confer

Film Analysis #1 by Kaylee Confer

The film “Erin Brockovich” was an informative and insightful movie that brought to light major problems with big companies using chemicals to clean our drinking water and to also cover-up attempts that followed. The director, Steven Soderbergh, took a true story about a working class mother named Erin Brockovich, who was a committed individual into a blockbuster hit. Soderbergh shaped Brockovich’s character to not only to relate to the individuals that were affected but also to the audience that was watching the film. He used her motherly instinct to create a relatable character as seen in the first scene when Erin was asked what qualifications made her prepared for this job and she quickly responded that she was a mother. Throughout the movie Soderbergh stresses the importance of this attribute by contrasting the character of Brockovich and the young female lawyer.

Award winning actress, Julia Roberts, stars as Erin Brockovich and later won an Oscar for her roll in the film. Her wittiness and passion that she portrayed while staring in this film kept the audience engaged and filled with different emotions throughout the movie. Roberts’ co-star, Albert Finney, played the roll of a small firm attorney, Ed Masry, who assisted Brockovich in attaining justice for the people of Hinkley, California. As the effects of contamination to a city’s water source are revealed throughout the movie the viewers are reminded how much water influences their everyday lives. The themes directly correlated to this film include water and health, water and wealth, and water and trust.

The “Erin Brockovich” movie was based on the story of a struggling mother who finds herself as a legal assistant for Ed Masry. Together they worked hard to bring down a powerful gas and electric company in California who was polluting the water in the low-income city of Hinkley. With the help of a major law firm, Erin and Ed received a settlement from Pacific Gas and Electric for $333 million, which was the largest settlement awarded in a direct-action lawsuit in the history of the United States.

While working at Ed Masry’s law firm filing paperwork for a case, Erin stumbles upon unusual papers that she ends up doing some more investigating on. After researching, she is convinced that there are unsafe levels of Chromium VI in the city of Hinkley’s water system. She informs Ed Masry of her findings and asks him to help her file a lawsuit against the giant cooperation responsible for the contamination. Reluctant at first, Masry agrees to team up with Brockovich to gain justice for the citizens of Hinkley.

Learning that most of the diseases and complications that the people are having can be directly related to over exposure of Chromium VI, they continue to talk to the citizens discovering that Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) has made multiple generous offers the residents, in order to convince them to move. PG&E misinformed the residents by telling them that Chromium IV was harmless, never warning them that they will be at risk. Unaware of the side effects of exposure to Chromium VI, residents declined their offers and continued to live in constant exposure. After meeting with many of the residents, Brockovich then goes out to find more hard evidence to take down PG&E. She visits the board of water in the city in search of water quality reports that would prove that the company knew they were violating public health safety by exposing citizens to too much of Chromium VI. Not long after, with Brockovich’s hesitation, her and Masry collaborated with a big time attorney firm in Los Angeles. As a result, a direct-action lawsuit was formed against the company. In the end the residents of Hinkley, California were awarded $333 million.

This movie’s content does not stray far from the real story of Erin Brockovich. There are a few fabrications within character detail that was filled in by the director to formulate more an intense attraction to the audience, but the true important characteristic of motherhood that Erin embraced was exhibited throughout the film. She easily connected with the victims not only economically, but also emotionally. The actual story line was extremely close to reality until the end of the movie. In the last few scenes of the movie it is portrayed that all of the citizens were happy with their settlement and the time it took for them to receive it. The case in the movie was perceived to be quick and neat when in reality it was drawn out, extremely messy, and tremendously confusing for the plaintiffs involved. The residents of Hinkley are still unhappy with the amount of money they ended up receiving and the fact that it took over six months for them to receive a dime of their money. After paying the 40% of the settlement to the lawyers as agreed to in the beginning, they were then hit with a $10 million bill for unexplained expenses, which also was not depicted in the film.[1] This left enough money for each of the 650 residents to receive around $300,000, but that was far from what actually happened. [2]The money was distributed secretly and unfairly; some victims only received $10,000 while others with similar conditions received $2 million.[3] In the end of the movie, Erin was shown going out to Donna Jenson’s, a fictional character, home and informing her she was reeving $5 million. In reality after the lawsuit was over, neither Brockovich, nor Masry would answer or return phone calls from the residents asking where their money was or questioning the amount they received.[4]

Throughout the film there were scenes that connected the importance of water with health, wealth, and trust. In regards to water and health, the film clearly depicted how contaminated water can produce major health problems for its daily consumers. The residents of Hinkley were slowly being poisoned by the water within their homes due to the overabundance of Chromium VI that leaked into their water system. In the movie, Erin is shown talking with a scientist about the health risks of Chromium VI in drinking water. He reveals to her that exposure is believed to lead to many different types of cancers, infertility, miscarriages, headaches, tumors, and bloody noses. These complications were shown in many different scenes when Erin goes door to door talking with the people of Hinkley and listening about all the health issues they are going through because of their contaminated water source. Water can give but also can take away, it is an essential need to everyday life but when polluted and no longer safe it can be detrimental to a society.

Water and wealth, both in film and in reality, showed how a multimillion-dollar company took advantage of a town in which citizens were under educated and obtained a low income. They did this knowing they could be easily silenced if a scandal like this took place. These residents did not have the money or knowledge to fight against a big company such as P&E. In the movie there was a scene when Erin was talking to one of the residents and she went on to explain how PG&E paid for doctor visits to certain doctors that would tell her that their symptoms were unrelated to one another. Due to lack of money this was the only way these residents could get treated. They had no money to hire lawyers or doctors of their own. This is a simple case of big business taking advantage of underprivileged citizens.

When turning on a faucet to fill your cup, most people do not second-guess weather it is safe to drink or not. The people in Hinkley put their trust in P&G in that their water was fresh and clean not contaminated with chemicals. In the film, Erin is again seen talking to one of the residents about what PG&E has told them about the usage of Chromium VI. The resident went on to tell Erin that the company told them that Chromium VI was healthy for you and should be in your water. They trusted what the company informed them about Chromium VI and never questioned the quality of their water. The residents also put their trust in Erin Brockovich and the firm to make the right decisions when it came to how to handle the case itself. This was clearly seen near the end of the film when they put their trust in Erin when it came to deciding whether to go to trial or go forward with a direct-action lawsuit.

The director tries to show the audience that when someone has passion, hard work, and determination they can do what most think is impossible. If injustice is taking place we have a right to stand up and fight against it no matter how powerful the opposing side seems to be. This movie relates back to the story of David and Goliath, when no one thought that a small man like David could ever stand a chance against a massive and power man such as Goliath, but in the end with faith and determination the small man prevailed. At the end of the movie I was empowered by Erin Brockovich’s willingness to succeed and her determination to receive justice for people she did not personally know. Her story shows, the willingness to do good for others brings prosperity and happiness amongst you.

Endnotes:

[1] Sharp, Kathleen. ““Erin Brockovich”: The Real Story.” Salon. Accessed November 30, 2016. http://www.salon.com/2000/04/14/sharp/.

[2] Sharp, Kathleen. ““Erin Brockovich”: The Real Story.” Salon. Accessed November 30, 2016. http://www.salon.com/2000/04/14/sharp/.

[3] Sharp, Kathleen. ““Erin Brockovich”: The Real Story.” Salon. Accessed November 30, 2016. http://www.salon.com/2000/04/14/sharp/.

[4] Sharp, Kathleen. ““Erin Brockovich”: The Real Story.” Salon. Accessed November 30, 2016. http://www.salon.com/2000/04/14/sharp/.

Work Cited:

Sharp, Kathleen. ““Erin Brockovich”: The Real Story.” Salon. Accessed November 30, 2016. http://www.salon.com/2000/04/14/sharp/.