Thursday, March 13, 2014

Performance Review: Julia Roberts in Erin Brokovich

Julia Roberts received her third Oscar nomination and won the Oscar for playing  the real life Erin Brokovich,  a woman with a big mouth and no patience.  She has three kids and is struggling to make ends meet.  She gets a job working for her former lawyer and she ends up investigating a case where PG & E  is responsible for poisoning  a whole town.

Just like Cate Blanchett this last year, Julia Roberts was a huge lock for Best Actress that year: She had been nominated and lost twice before, she gives a very dramatic  and entertaining performance ,  she was in a  Best Picture nominated movie that voters were able to reward  with her win, and Hollywood wanted to honor one of their biggest stars. I'm guessing she won in a landslide.

Erin Brokovich is a terrific film: It tells a very entertaining, moving story with excellent acting.  Soderbergh's brilliant visual style does wonders to the film, making it have a very realistic and perfect look.   I feel the movie is highly deserving of it's Oscar nominations, although Traffic was the best that year.

Julia Robert's win is one of the most hated ever.   I guess I can see why: Erin Brokovich is hardly a likeable woman, at least the one thats portrayed in this film and Julia Roberts is a star whose usually considered obnoxious  and arrogant.  If we were judging her by her speech, I'd agree, but here Roberts hits a  high note here,   at least with me.  Erin is supposed to be over the top, throwing herself around and being rude to people. And Roberts nails this. She is terrific and very convincing.  Seriously, could anyone else have played this part?  Her big scenes are excellent, she really shows us that she cares about what she's doing and that it means so much to her.  We see the wonderful self-worth and confidence that her job gives her and Roberts is wonderful at showing the woman behind Erin's confident persona.  The vulnerability and depth she gives to her is  very noteworthy.  I love the scene where Eckart is describing her baby daughter's first word. She beautifully shows the happiness this brings her  and she does it so naturally.  She has great chemistry with Aaron Eckhart and with Albert Finney, although she overshadows both of them, given its so much of her movie.

That said, I do think that  the performance becomes a bit repetitive. It is isn't Julia's fault, but there are so many scenes where she has such a strong opinionated attitude that it gets a bit wearing after a while. It's still impressive, but it does take some points away from her.  There are also times where I think she knows it, which makes some of her scenes unconvincing.

But  overall, Roberts commands the movie with a wonderful performance.  She is entertaining, she has energy, and she understands the character so well that the results are truly great. 


Fritz said...

This a pretty terrific performance that doesn't deserve all the hate.

joe burns said...

I agree! I didn't even love Ellen Burstyn that much anyway: She was good, but it's really what Ellen Burstyn does all the time and it's hammy and overcooked at that.

Anonymous said...

I agree too! I watched this performance expecting myself to be disappointed, like with Reese Witherspoon and Sandra Bullock, so I was quite surprised to see how she managed to kept me interested despite her annoying character. My personal pick is still Ellen Burstyn harrowing work in RFAD, but I thought Julia Roberts was worthy.

And I totally agree with your point about people hating the performance because of the obnoxious character. I think it was a bit repetitive, which is why people tend to overlook the tender moments of her performance, but I'd blame that on the script. I actually feel that way about June Squibb's performance this year too, the way people say that she's merely an annoying swearing old lady.

Good review btw, it's nice to hear something positive about this performance for once.

joe burns said...

Thank you! Totally agree with you too! It's a shame she's lumped into the same bushel of rotten apples that Witherspoon and Bullock are!

Haven't seen Squibb, but really want to- She looks great from her clips.

DeFelice said...

With the exception of several members of the supporting cast, the camera work and editing the whole thing (especially Roberts) come off as a bad Lifetime TV movie for me. Julia Roberts, IMO, is a good movie star but not a good actress.