new releases

Erin Brockovrch

(15) 133 mins * iir *ir

Following Out Of Sight and The Limey, Steven Soderbergh once more directs from someone else's screenplay in this case Susannah Grant (Pocahontas, Ever After and the forthcoming Sandra Bullock drug and alcohol rehab film, 28 Days) proving himself to be one of America's most accomplished filmmakers. And one of the most versatile too Soderbergh's as comfortable directing an arthouse hit (his Palme d’Or-winning debut, sex, lies and videotape, for example) as he is a mainstream Hollywood film such as Erin Brockovich.

His new film casts leading lady Julia Roberts as the eponymous single mother who uncovers an environmental scandal, which leads to the largest direct action lawsuit in American history. Following Notting Hill and The Runaway Bride, Erin Brockovich represents a much more substantial role for Roberts who appears in every scene in the film - giving her the

opportunity to prove she can turn in a top-notch performance given the right material and director.

With two husbands behind her, three kids to look after, no job and neither skills or experience with which to secure employment, the ballsy Erin shoehorns her way into a filing clerk position with Ed Masry’s (Albert Finney) California law firm. There she accidentally uncovers a conspiracy to conceal the poisoning of a local community, Hinkley, by the $30 billion corporation PG&E, and with Masry brings to bear a $333 million lawsuit on behalf of 600 plaintiffs.

This might sound like a cliched John Grisham thriller - Erin and Ed's buddy-buddy team, the underdogs vs big business - but it's based on a true story. While improbable, the main events and principal characters including Erin's biker boyfriend, George,

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Mansfield Park (15)112mins Hm it

Mansfield Park’s Fanny Price is Jane Austen‘s least attractive heroine. While Elizabeth Bennett and Emma glow with vivacity and wit, Fanny is passive, insipid and frail 7- not qualities to endear her to most cinema audiences. PatriCIa Rozema, director of I’ve Heard The Mermaids Singing and Night Is Falling, clearly agrees. Her new screen version of the novel takes liberties with the text that will have some viewers fuming while others applaud her boldness.

24 THE “ST 30 Mar—13 Apr 2000

hat will have some viewers fuming while

Soderbergh and Roberts refine mainstream cinema

social status.

(Miles Fielder)

others applaud her boldness’

Rozema has supplemented her adaptation with extracts from Austen’s own letters and journals, turning the novel’s heroine a poor girl who is adopted by wealthy relatives and taken to live in the grand house of the title into a budding writer. The timid youngster grows up, in Rozema’s film, into Frances O’Connor’s quick-witted, sharp~tongued free spirit. Whereas the novel’s Fanny all but keels over after cutting flowers in the sun, O’Connor’s character bounds down stairs swishing her riding crop and goes galloping on horseback in the rain more a Brbnte

who becomes, in effect, a ‘house husband’ - are factually correct. Playing on these 'fictionalised facts', Soderbergh has the real Brockovich appear in a scene with Roberts as a diner waitress (her name tag reads Julia). Judge LeRoy A Simmons came out of retirement to play himself and many of the extras were residents of Hinkley (where the film was shot) involved in the original case. And, without giving away the end of the film, where it leaves Roberts does reflect the real Brockovich’s current

Soderbergh’s direction and Roberts’ performance are faultless together they prove that mainstream

American cinema can be something truly great.

I General release from Fri 7 Apr.

heroine than an Austen one.

Rozema doesn't stop there. Where the novel alludes tacitly to slave plantations in Antigua as the source of the Bertram family’s wealth, the film makes it clear who exactly is ’paying for the party’. Slavery is not the only thing Rozema makes explicit. Henry and Mary Crawford (Alessandro Nivola and Embeth Davidtz), the smart, glamorous brother and sister who become the Bertram’s neighbours, have a dangerous sexual allure that threatens the composure of all those at Mansfield Park. The Bertram daughters both fall for Henry, while Fanny’s cousin Edmund (Jonny Lee Miller), for whom she nurses an unspoken love, seems likely to succumb to Mary’s charms.

Whereas Austen's novel celebrates the virtues of quiet and stillness, Rozema’s film throbs with energy. Her camera darts and glides at key points in the narrative, while the performances are full of dash and brio. The film may not be strictly faithful to the novel, but there's no mistaking its intelligence, vigOur and Wit. (Jason Best)

I Selected release from Fri 37 Mar. See feature.

Love's Labour's Lost (U) 93 mins at fr "it

Kenneth Branagh’s latest attempt to make Shakespeare multiplex-friendly will shock textual purists. For the writer/driertor/produter/actor has not just taken one of Shakesptvires early, most wordy, iornantir. (oinedies and cut 70 per rent of its dialogue, he. has their gone and filled the holes wrth show tunes from the 30s and 40s.

Branagl; has always referenced Hollywood in his Sl‘iakespeare adaptations, though never so explicitly. By refraining lor‘e's laborir’s lost Within that ll‘tisi Arizerirar‘. of genres, the rntisita, me has put the likes of Cole Porter, lerorne Kern and Cier‘s'rm‘in on an equal l()()Ill3(l wrth the Bard. lhe frlrn retails “~..“./oori\,i Ailen's stab at the iniisitai, five/“lorry Says / love You, but goes even further towards tapttir'rtg the spine rilrtl {or e of tire filrns that insprr'ei‘l it it does the same for Shakespeare's play is a moot pomt, however

l'he plot is srrr‘p..t:i.‘,' itself: three students il‘sranagh, ‘\\llii(lll tester, l\./latth<-‘.'.' l.ili(il(ll and the King Of lv‘avarre rertoiinre .vine, \.'.orner‘. and song in favour of stud, ll<)\.'.'e‘.ier, their resolve \.'.'r.-a'r.e::s the rnorrrertt a bevy of l)(‘(itl'.5(‘8 airne at (drift, red by Alitra Silverstorre's pr‘ititess

l'he rast attark the song and dance routines until: and a l§ll()‘.i'/i."(.jlit's“. titat orrasrorially takes the frlrn to the edge of parody. Highlights tr»: . rife l'riLOZhy Spall's

rwprrig reitdLIrort

of 'i bet A Klth ()‘..‘i (if You’, and Nathan lanes initially r‘netancholiC version of "iliere's No Briszriess like Sl'tozzihtrsrrzess' l‘ :rte rnoinents \.‘.'he."e Shakespeare's linguage routes to the low seem less satrsrattoiy, 't is not the (:ast's fault [wen Siheistone, who one might expert to oe the weak link, delivers her i'rzes ‘.‘.lil‘. clarity, Uf‘ldelhli'llldll'tj arid feeling. the pr'ohleri: is sirnpiv tltat Shakespeare's rrrh poetry s not as rrninediately artessitite as tlie songs, i'eguirmg the audiente to suddenly (t)lt(t’:‘lttl'(lt(? harder

No doubt sorne krilrovs wrll write Love's laboirr's lost off as a betrayal. For most people, though, Branagh's most t-‘iirriatioas, anti frankly maddest, Shakespeare adaptation to date should prove a fanny, engaging, and (orisisieritlv entertaining trifle. (Stephen /\l)i)lt‘l)dtlll‘.l General v’eas‘e fro/n Hi 3/ Mar.

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'Branagh’s most audacious, and frankly maddest, Shakespeare adaptation to date'



1’ t-‘r tr Very good s * Worth a shot ? at e Below average it You’ve been warned