The best move this courtroom drama does is stay out of the courtroom for most of its running time. The final court proceeding doesn't even make an appearance. Director Steven Soderbergh (SEX, LIES & VIDEOTAPE) and writer Susannah Grant (IN HER SHOES) find a way to have the revelatory happy ending that is a staple of this kind of film without a judge ruling innocent or guilty and a courtroom full of people jumping to their feet. These moves make the story about the investigation and not the theatrics. It gives it heart.
The film takes its title from its central character, Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts, MYSTIC PIZZA), a poor single mother who provokes with her blunt statements and skimpy clothing. After a car accident, she hires lawyer Ed Masry (Albert Finney, TOM JONES) to represent her. Following the court case (one of only two courtroom scenes), Brockovich pressures her way into a job at Masry's firm. She is assigned a real estate case, which includes medical records. Wondering why the two are connected, she looks into the case more and discovers that in Hinkley, California PG&E have been contaminating the groundwater with chromium 6, which is causing the residents to have numerous and varying health problems. Turns out, the power company has been covering up the problem and Brockovich makes it her mission to make them pay.