Sunday, October 23

Creating Sympathy for Eric Brockovitch

After seeing a well chopped and TV-formatted version of Erin Brockovitch - my first viewing - I thought some important scenes had to have been left in the Avid recycle basket. George (Aaron Eckhart), the biker boyfriend, is so good, so good to her, that I thought I'd missed the scenes in which they'd fought it out to this hard-won loyalty. Cut for time in favor of Swiffer, or another product, I figure.

But when the audience thinks that everything could turn against her - her man, her kids, the plaintiffs, even her boss - a brief important scene restores hope to the audience and Erin. She has awakened on a seedy motel couch. George wakes up the kids and takes them out to breakfast, resigned now and sullen, but committed to helping. Erin's son Matthew sits at the desk reading information about one of the plaintiffs. "This girl's my age," he says. Erin bats it away, telling him not to mess up her files. He offers to bring breakfast back from the restaurant. She accepts.

Matthew recognizes what she's been doing: helping kids like him who are sick and dying. With his exit, she knows that her family will be there after the case no matter what. But she also knows that the stories in the case have the power to change minds, that they invite listeners to identify with the victims. Her hope is restored as well. The audience learns that her crusade has not become an obsessive idee fixe. She is still motivated by compassion and outrage at injustice.