Starring: Julia Roberts, Albert Finney, Aaron Eckhart, Marg Helgenberger
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Summary: An unemployed single mother becomes a legal assistant and brings down a California power company accused of polluting a city’s water supply
Other Nominations: Director, Actress (Roberts)*, Supporting Actor (Finney), Original Screenplay
For better or worse, this feels very much like a Hollywood-ized Norma Rae (a movie I reviewed back for the 1979 ceremony). Roberts is a perfect fit for the role as written: charming, sometimes abrasive, smart and above all sympathetic. On that last point, the movie stacks the deck about as much as possible to get the audience to root for her and forgive her (honestly kind of significant) flaws to the point of being manipulative sometimes. At it’s best, it’s a good movie about a woman who finally gets respect for what she has to offer even if it means straining her family life; at it’s worst, it’s a hammy women’s empowerment/little guy fights back against the evil corporation movie that feels slick and over-processed. In the vein of movies like Jerry Maguire and The Blind Side, this is the kind of feel-good crowd-pleasing movie that is accessible to everyone and has enough merit to it that it does great business at the box office (which it did to the tune of over $200 million domestic) and even gets Oscar nominations. Nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t get me excited in any way either.