BARRY NORMAN: FILM OF THE DAY Erin Brockovich★★★★ 9.00-11.45pm Movie Mix
Julia Roberts always seems to act best when dressed as a tart. She was stunning as the hooker in Pretty Woman and equally stunning as the more respectable but still hooker-clad heroine here. Maybe the comparative absence of clothes frees her from inhibitions. Whatever, in plunging necklines and skimpy skirts she won the Oscar as the eponymous and real-life Erin, who uncovered an enormous environmental crime. A divorced, unemployed single mother, Brockovich (who, incidentally, dressed as Roberts does in the film) parleyed her way into a job as assistant to a lawyer (Albert Finney), who had failed to win her a damages claim. From there, entirely off her own bat, she successfully investigated claims that pollution caused by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company had caused all manner of diseases up to and including cancer. Steven Soderbergh’s film is essentially about an apparent no-hoper, who found a sense of self-worth. It’s sharp and lively, and both Roberts and Finney are on excellent form.
If you like the work of Terry Gilliam, you’ll love this irreverent, anachronistic medieval caper from Brian Helgeland, whose most recent movie at the cinema was the Kray brothers biopic, Legend. Here, Heath Ledger plays an imposter who, with two friends, jousts his way across 14th-century Europe. Ledger is great as the swashbuckling squire who takes his dead master’s lance, and Paul Bettany makes an impact as Geoffrey Chaucer.
David Lynch’s engrossing psychological thriller should carry a health warning, seeing that it was originally meant as a follow-up to the famously weird Twin Peaks. It starts with a Los Angeles car crash and an amnesiac Laura Harring, and follows her and wannabe actress Naomi Watts as they try to discover Harring’s identity. Their search takes them through Lynchian subplots and kookie characters, events real and imagined, all seen through the kaleidoscopic eye of the director’s surreal vision. Stick with it.
Hudson Hawk (Rio Bravo) is in the chair for this good-looking adventure set in the 1830s. Kirk Douglas plays the farmer who hooks up with a drifter (Dewey Martin) and his trapper uncle (Arthur Hunnicutt) on a fur trading trip up the Missouri river – an area controlled by Native American tribes. There is plenty of action, and the performances are fine, but it’s the majestic landscapes (filmed in Wyoming) that have the biggest impact.
Director Kevin Reynolds brings his experience of swashbuckling panache (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) and adventure (Waterworld) to bear for this remake of the oft-filmed Alexandre Dumas story. Jim Caviezel is the sailor who is betrayed by his supposed best friend (played by Guy Pearce) and thrown into prison on a remote island. There is enough plot to keep two movies happy, the cast seems to be having fun, and Richard Harris is a welcome addition as Faria, the would-be escapee with a bad sense of direction but a wealth of other useful knowledge for the untutored Caviezel.