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"In ERIN BROCKOVICH, Julia Roberts is stacked."
- Peter Keough, BOSTON PHOENIX

"Julia Roberts in a plunging neckline .... dressed so provocatively in every single scene, she upstages the material."

"There are a lot of scenes of Erin crawling down wells in her miniskirt and platform shoes ..."

"...her breasts, which she wears the way other women wear diamond pendants..."
- Robert Wilonski, NEW TIMES LOS ANGELES

"Basically, ERIN BROCKOVICH is about two things: lethal corporate greed, and Julia Roberts' breasts..."
- Elizabeth Weitzman, FILM.COM

"There doesn't seem to be a waking moment in Ms. Brockovich's life when she isn't begging the world to look down her shirt..."
- Michael Atkinson, MR. SHOWBIZ

"The movie spends a lot of time looking at and asking you to look at [her] body, as she wears tight, short-skirted, cleavage-enhancing costumes..."
- Cynthia Fuchs, POPMATTERS

"Julia Roberts in a series of seductive, skin-tight minis, a luscious rainbow of Wonderbras..."
- Jeanne Aufmuth, PALO ALTO WEEKLY

"[Her] prettiness is toyed with by the awful -- yet eye-catching -- clothes she wears..."
- Yazmin Ghonaim, CINEPHILES

"Brockovich also is well aware of her good looks and uses sexy clothing and push-up bras to open doors ..."

"Absent the bosom and the thigh-length skirt, would this case have ever made it out of the initial deposition stage? Would this movie not be shipped off to videotape after a quick run in the theaters?"
- Harvey Karten, COMPUSERVE

Has film criticism gotten this crass? I can't remember the last time reviewers -- female as well as male, as you can see above (breast envy?) -- were so fixated on what Alex in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE called "groodies." Apparently, ERIN BROCKOVICH gives the viewer regular peeks at Julia Roberts' cleavage. To be honest, except for a couple of shots that emphasized the way Erin uses her body to distract some goofy male, I didn't actually notice. I'm not really a breast guy, anyway. Nor am I a leg guy, and the critics went after poor Julia's mini-skirts, too. I suppose I was naive enough to follow the story and listen to the dialogue and observe the interaction between the performers, but I guess I was wrong. I guess I should have been staring at Julia Roberts' body and blocking out everything else.

What's the problem here? First of all, Erin's wardrobe in the movie was not cynically designed by Universal to lure horny guys desperate for a glimpse of Julia's roberts. The real-life Erin Brockovich, according to a recent ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY story, dressed (and still dresses) just as provocatively -- and even more so, according to Brockovich herself -- as her screen counterpart. So the filmmakers -- and the actress -- were simply trying to be true to the person they were depicting. For this, they get sneers and leers.

Can the real problem here be Fear of Female Form? This is on my mind because just today, at the library where I work, a woman complained about the "offensive" issues of GQ clearly on display in our magazine spinners. The woman went so far as to say that at Cumberland Farms, a local convenience store, they were at least courteous enough to keep their dirty magazines where decent people couldn't see them. Well, the GQ covers are sort of cheesy -- the PLAYBOY-ization in recent years of men's magazines like DETAILS and MAXIM is another topic for another time -- but they aren't dirty or pornographic. (They were the covers featuring the scantily clad Tyra Banks and Penelope Cruz, in case you wondered.)

Talking about it with my amused boss later, I said, "It's just the female form. They weren't even naked." I'm uncomfortable with the idea of GQ using cheesecake to sell magazines (though I realize that the competition of the Internet has made it necessary), but at the same time, it's 2000, not 1940. Do breasts, or even female pubic hair, really threaten the republic that much? The message seems to be that women should be ashamed of the bodies they were born with -- I don't think women need any more shame induced from without or within, do you? (Incidentally, the woman didn't mention our just-as-prominently-displayed issues of MEN'S HEALTH, which always features a shirtless, buff guy on its cover. Some of these guys have bigger tits than many women.)

Some of the reviewers tackling ERIN BROCKOVICH would seem to be kin to that Church Lady-esque woman who found GQ so upsetting. To be fair, not all the reviews I checked mentioned the Cleavage Factor, but enough of them did. And Roger Ebert, who I thought would've enjoyed the film's humanistic treatment of familiar material (he gave it a paltry two stars and compared it unfavorably to A CIVIL ACTION), seemed to have a particularly Seinfeldian preoccupation with Erin's twin peaks -- hardly a paragraph goes by without some allusion to them. And Ebert is the same guy who has praised many Russ Meyer films (which are always heavy on T&A) and even wrote one of them. Very strange that he should get all puritanical about cleavage now. Would he have liked ERIN BROCKOVICH better if it were directed by Meyer and starred Kitten Natividad?

Would I have goofed on Julia's big tits if I'd legitimately felt the movie was crap? I don't think so, unless that was one of the aspects deserving ridicule. I don't feel that it is. And I wonder about the critics, female as well as male, who were so distracted by Erin's merchandise that they overlooked the film's fine points: the unstressed handling of family vs. career, the effortless-seeming acting teamwork, the plot that focuses more on personalities than on mechanical twists.

It wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that Julia Roberts, with this film, became the highest-paid actress in Hollywood, would it? She's making $20 million a film now; well, we can't have that -- I mean, imagine a woman making that kind of money -- what's this world coming to? Let's all just talk about her tits and completely ignore her performance. The critics' obsession with Julia's mammaries speaks volumes about the critics and says very little about the film or the actress.

Yes, Erin Brockovich dresses to kill. She very often wears things that show off her upper body. The point of the movie is that she's bright and direct enough to get people to see beyond that and recognize her intelligence and compassion and commitment. I guess the critics -- the male ones sounded like 13-year-old boys; the female ones sounded like 13-year-old girls being bitchy about a classmate who developed before they did -- couldn't see beyond it. Too bad. While they were busy looking at Julia Roberts' boobs and thinking of clever put-downs, they missed a pretty good movie.

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