Single Person’s Movie: Erin Brockovich

It’s 2 a.m. and you awake with a jerk, alone in your fully lit apartment and still on the couch.

It’s 2 a.m. and you awake with a jerk, alone in your fully lit apartment and still on the couch. On TV, the credits of some movie you’ve already seen a billion times are scrolling by. It feels like rock bottom. And we know, because we’re just like you: single.

Need a movie to keep you company until you literally can’t keep your eyes open? Join us tonight when we pass out to Erin Brockovich [starting @ 11:40 p.m. on Encore]

Why we’ll try to stay up and watch it: For an actress being touted as on the comeback trail, Julia Roberts works pretty steadily. Duplicity, opening tomorrow, is her 10th live action film since 2000, and with two more in development (adaptations of the best-selling books Eat, Prey, Love and The Friday Night Knitting Club) there won’t be much moss gathering on America’s Sweetheart in the coming years, despite what you might think. We guess since the Tony Gilroy–helmed caper is her first lead role since Mona Lisa Smile in 2003, people are acting like the original Pretty Woman went into a Debra Winger–like seclusion. To us, though, it just looks like her choices have matured. And we guess that all started with Erin Brockovich.

Perhaps in the hands of a lesser director, the film would have been pat and tired—yet another small town–versus–evil corporation legal drama in the vein of Silkwood. But Steven Soderbergh never lets that happen. He keeps the tone perfectly balanced between funny and sad, and the film manages to be affecting without ever becoming mawkish. (Unless you’re made of stone, there’s a good chance CSI’s Marg Helgenberger—in a small role as a cancer-stricken mother—will turn on your waterworks.) Mr. Soderbergh won an Oscar in 2000 for Traffic, but for our money, his dually nominated direction on Erin Brockovich is even better.

Of course, Ms. Roberts did work with some great filmmakers prior to hooking up with Mr. Soderbergh. Unfortunately, she usually did so on their worst films—Steven Spielberg’s Hook and Robert Altman’s Prêt-à-Porter come to mind. Since Erin Brockovich however, Ms. Roberts has become something all actors and actresses strive for: she’s picky. And can you blame her? After getting what amounts to the role of a lifetime, it’s no wonder Ms. Roberts pulled back from being the biggest female star in the world. How can she top Erin Brockovich?

When we’ll probably fall asleep: It’s hard to imagine Aaron Eckhart playing a believable biker, complete with tattoos and ridiculous long hair, but that’s just what he does in Erin Brockovich. As Erin’s boyfriend, George, Mr. Eckhart turns what could be a stereotype into a loving and doting man for all seasons; that the screenplay eventually forces his character to act like a petulant jerk is one of the only missteps in the entire movie. Thankfully, before he shuffles off to serve the wills of the script gods, Mr. Eckhart gets to participate in the best moment of the film. So we’ll make it until 1:05 a.m., 85 minutes in, when while driving home in the middle of the night, Erin hears from a half-asleep George about her baby daughter’s first word. We’re pretty sure “ball” never sounded so touching. Single Person’s Movie: Erin Brockovich