Erin Brockovich is the ultimate underdog.

She’s a broke single mother with three kids and no skills, but she guilts her lawyer Ed into an office job after he loses her traffic accident case.

Soon she’s stumbled upon a massive corporate coverup about how the Pacific Gas and Electric Company are knowingly dumping cancer-causing poisons into the groundwater in Hinkley, California.  Erin attacks the case—and PG&E—with a foul-mouthed ferocity that shows just how far tenacity and ingenuity can take you.

My favorite scene is when she meets with Charles Embry, a former employee who may have documents that tie the local branch to the main corporation.  Proving that the corporate headquarters knew about the poisoning is the key to their class action lawsuit.

Erin, who spends most of the movie charging around like a bull in a China shop, suddenly goes quiet.  She knows how important this is; she knows she has one chance, and that if she blows it, the people of Hinkley will never get justice.

It’s the best role of Julia Roberts’s career, and she was rightly awarded an Oscar for it.

About a year after the film, I saw the real Erin Brockovich speak when I was a student at Penn State.  Julia Roberts had captured her mannerisms, her defiance, and her sense of justice perfectly. 

We loved her.

During the Q&A, people asked her about the film.  She said it was accurate, and had only one complaint about it.

There’s a scene when Erin is arguing with her boyfriend—he’s tired of taking care of her kids all the time and wants her to quit the job.  In the film, she says she doesn’t want to quit because she finally had people respecting her.

With colorful profanity, the real Erin said she didn’t do any of  it to gain respect.  She did it for the people of Hinkley, and only for the people of Hinkley.

And you know what?

I believe her.

This is part of my Movies I’m Grateful For series, running daily through the month of November. 

Other films include: Splash | New Moon | The Lucky One | Thelma and Louise | Katy Perry:  Part of Me | Crazy Rich Asians | Under the Tuscan Sun | Terminator 2 | Moulin Rouge! |  How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days | Practical Magic | Schindler’s List | Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol | Stardust | The Man in the Moon | The Others | Little Women | Cruella | Sliding Doors | Far and Away | The Magdalene Sisters | The Heat | The Last Five Years | Shakespeare In Love |