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E [Category A]

Erin Brockovich

Erin Brockovich (1999)

Directed by Steven Soderbergh, this is one of the few films that focuses on a paralegal, the title character, played by Julia Roberts. Based on a true story, a single mother seeks work in a law firm headed by the wonderful Albert Finney. The dynamics of the firm's support staff, primarily women, are vividly portrayed as the paralegal, going through the files, questions some of the memoranda and information she comes upon. One aspect of the film that I appreciated was that it showed how the working-class Brockovich could relate to the firm's clients a good deal better than many attorneys could. A highly-recommended film to those involved in class actions, environmental work, women-supporting-women in the workplace, and those focusing on the much overlooked class and cultural gaps between lawyers and clients.

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Evelyn (2003)

This film, based on a true custody battle in Ireland in the 1950s, is a moving look at father's rights. Pierce Brosnan - yes, James Bond - plays a struggling painter whose wife walks out on him and his three children. In accordance with Irish government policy at the time, which appears to have been dictated by the Catholic Church, the three children are removed from their father and placed in Church-run institutions. The father scrapes together enough money to hire lawyers, realistically played by Stephen Rea, Aidan Quinn, and Alan Bates, to get his children returned to him, challenging both Church and state.

Brosnan, who is of course Irish-born and bred, is in his element as he gives a wonderful performance as the heartbroken, poverty-stricken Dad. The film delves into the legal strategies in admirable detail, and also frankly deals with the financial issues that confront any attorney whose client has a good cause, but a bad case and little money. One quibble: it puzzled me that the film was named after Evelyn, the eldest child, and doesn't deal with her two brothers as much. But all performances by the children are wonderful. I would have liked a more detailed aftermath, in order to know the real effect of the case, but a good film frequently leaves you wanting more. It's not a legal history, but a story of family reunification, warmly directed by Bruce Beresford, who also directed Driving Miss Daisy, and featuring Julianna Margulies as a barmaid whose brother helpfully happens to be an attorney.

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