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Erin Brockovich is a single mother without a job and with thousands of dollars in hospital bills from a car accident she was in (and unsuccessfully sued the other driver to pay). Desperate, she gets her lawyer to take her on as a legal assistant. While everyone else is very professional, Brockovich dresses rather trashily and is rather crude. Then one day, she begins to investigate the Pacific Gas & Electric Company and discovers they're dumping toxic waste into the water supply of Hinkley, California. By using her...considerable assets...she begins a legal battle that would end up the largest class action lawsuit in American history. Yes, this is Based on a True Story, and Erin Brockovich is a real woman. She gets a cameo as a waitress in a Greasy Spoon restaurant.
The film was nominated for five Oscars, but won only one: Julia Roberts' only Oscar win for Best Actress.
- Actor IS the Title Character
- Amoral Attorney: Pretty much the entire PG&E legal team.
- Because I Said So: Played for a surprising amount of drama when Erin explains the water contamination to one of the residents of Hinkley. The mother looks outside in horror at her kids in a swimming pool and rushes to get them out. When the kids ask why they had to get out, she yells, "Because I said so!"
- Based on a True Story
- Fallen-On-Hard-Times Job: Albert Finney's practice is portrayed as a small-time study in diminished expectations.
- I Broke a Nail: Erin, right before her car gets T-boned at the start of the film.
- I Have Boobs - You Must Obey!: "They're called boobs, Ed."
- Oscar Bait
- Not in My Back Yard: One of the main reasons people find the story compelling.
- Real Person Cameo: The real Erin Brockovich plays a waitress (lampshaded, as the waitress' name is Julia R.)
- Water Source Tampering: PG&E tries to cover up the fact that they were poisoning the groundwater of the town Hinkley, California with Hexavalent Chromium, which resulted in most of the town suffering from illness and cancer.
- Wham! Line: "Would it be important if, when I worked at the plant, I destroyed documents?"