Erin Brockovich (UK - BD)
Benjamin Willcock takes a look at Julia Roberts' Academy Award winning film...
I find it hard to believe that it has been eight years since Julia Roberts delivered her Academy Award winning performance as Erin Brockovich. Eight long years—how time flies. I was first introduced to this film via a good friend of mine. He handed his copy to me not long after the DVD went on sale, and encouraged me (with some force) to watch it.
But you know how it is sometimes; you glance at the cover, the title and finally the people who star in it, and give off a little shrug that tells the person offering it to you only too plainly that you’re not interested. I seldom shun films that people recommend to me but at that time I really couldn’t be bothered to give it the time of day. It was always on my ‘to watch’ list, but it was a title that probably came nearer the bottom of that list.
All I can say is that I’m glad I have persistent friends. To say I fell in love with this film would be something of an understatement. Perhaps it’s the stellar performances by Julia Roberts and Albert Finney, or maybe Steven Soderbergh’s masterful direction, or just the fact that it is based on real-life events, I really can’t pin the film’s overwhelming success on any one of its many excellent attributes.
It’s one of those films where every part plays an equally large role. Without one, the film would not succeed. Bring them all together, and you have something very special. But it all starts at the root, the story. Erin’s struggle to balance her low-paying job, her child and her love interest is something we all can associate with. She’s your everyday, hard-working slave to society and you’ll see something of yourself in her character.
But as we see her go from this sort of everyday lifestyle, struggling to keep the plates spinning, all the way to the upper echelons of the law machine as she takes on an entire company, it certainly gives you that shot of adrenaline and inspiration. Her compassion for the sick who have been the unknowing victims of corporate greed and foul play is admirable, selfless and touchingly human.
She’s almost like a tireless nurse in her desire to help the helpless. She doesn’t have to do anything, she could merely get on with her own life and deal with her own problems, but she chooses to make a difference that’ll mean the world to a small group of people. It almost makes you wish there were more Erin Brockovich’s in the world, and that is really the underlining message of the film—to make us realise there’s good in the world, even if we seldom see it.
This is a truly heart-warming film, and the fact that it is based on a true story makes it even more meaningful to the viewer. You feel for Erin’s cause, you want nothing more than to see her succeed and Julia Roberts brings her to life with a passion and determination rarely seen on-screen. This was, and still is, her greatest performance. Erin Brockovich is a masterful work of cinema, and one that, to me, has climbed to near enough the top of my list. This is a film everyone should own.
The cinematography used in this film is excellent, employing a kind of rustic-amber colour palette and largely stationary shots with little to no movement. The high definition transfer does a great job of preserving the film’s original interpretation. The colours look stunning, and while there is an ample amount of film grain it never gets in the way of an otherwise flawless transfer. Some shots do look a little blurry compared to the majority, but these are so far apart that it never feels inconsistent. Black levels are impressive, but they don’t reach reference-level quality by any means. In all this is a very solid transfer that looks sharp, clean and well-rounded. And yes, it is the best you will ever see this film. It might not be a substantial jump over the DVD, but it's definitely enough to justify the asking price.
The only option you have on this disc is a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track, but fear not, it sounds excellent. While not an action or adventure film rife with explosions, complex sound effects or a bombastic soundtrack, Erin Brockovich still has enough punch and clarity to make full use of your home theatre. Dialogue, I am pleased to report, is superb. Good job, seen as the whole film is practically nothing but dialogue. The gentle, sometimes springy score by Thomas Newman also gets the royal treatment. Frankly, I doubt this film could ever sound better. The audio engineers have done a fantastic job on this disc.
Disappointingly there’re only three features on this disc, starting with ’The Making of Erin Brockovich’ which is a fifteen minute behind the scenes look at the production of the film. Again, it’s one of those glossed over, hyper-thin extras that you’ll only ever watch once. That doesn’t mean it’s not good, but I’d hardly call it a genuine ‘making of’ when you spend so little time with the production staff. What this disc really needed was a full-blown commentary, but alas there isn’t one.
Next up is ‘Personality Profile: The Real Erin Brockovich’, which is a four minute account of the woman herself. Again, there’s not much here, but it’s good while it lasts. Finally, there’s a ‘Deleted Scenes’ reel, which lasts roughly thirty minutes. Quite a meaty extra, but some of the scenes are quite stagnant and were rightly chopped from the film. Still, if you would like more insight into the film and some of the characters then most of them make for pretty decent viewing.
Erin Brockovich is a classic, to say the least. If you don’t feel even the slightest bit of compassion for her, or you don’t feel an overpowering sense of elation when she overcomes her plight, then you really mustn’t have a heart. Though a feel-good, heart-warming film, you’ll not see a great deal of cushy Hollywood sentimentality here; you can just appreciate it for the great work that it is.
The Blu-ray itself is great, and though sadly lacking in extra features, the high definition transfer and Dolby TrueHD audio more than make up for it. This is a pretty solid disc, and one I would recommend to those who owned the original DVD. For newcomers, this is a great place to start. Just be aware that a special edition or some other kind of double-dip will likely crop up at some point in the near future.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Benjamin Willcock
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 1st September 2008
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 Portuguese, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, Dolby Digital 5.1 Thai
Subtitles: Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Croatian, Danish, Dutch, English, English SDH, Finnish, Hebrew, Hindi, Icelandic, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovene, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish
Extras: Making of, Personality Profile, Deleted Scenes
Easter Egg: No
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Julia Roberts, Albert Finney, David Brisbin, Dawn Didawick, Valente Rodriguez, Conchata Ferrell, Pat Skipper, Jack Gill, Scotty Leavenworth, Erin Brockovich-Ellis
Length: 132 minutes