Might contain spoilers.
A fantastic film. Julia Roberts entirely deserved her Oscar. I can’t imagine anyone else playing Erin to such perfection, wielding that charm with aplomb yet not trying to sweep her flaws under the carpet: the character has a real chip on her shoulder, with all the misplaced antagonism towards everyone she meets. Albert Finney is superlative, too, and defines his role in the same way. Ed comes across as a genuinely good man.
I have much less sympathy for George (an adequate Aaron Eckhart) this time than when I last watched it over a decade ago. He’s an immature, overgrown adolescent who abandons Erin when he feels he isn’t getting enough attention. He has no job when he meets her, but somehow holds her responsible for his later unemployment. His claim that he waited six months for her to be nice strains credulity. And I was disappointed to see that the character is a whitewashed version of a Mexican-American man named Jorge.
Although the movie is triumphant and stirring, I found it a mite grim and disheartening in retrospect. This is the story of how a company knowingly and willfully poisoned the ground for six years, leading to decades of disease, death, and trauma for an entire town, paid next to nothing to settle the subsequent lawsuit, and continued operating as usual afterwards.
Consider the settlement. Early on, Ed says a million dollars would have been appropriate compensation for one family. The final figure of $333 million for the entire group of 634 plaintiffs is half a million per family on average before the lawyers take 40%. On top of that, one particular family getting $5 million means many others will get much less. It’s tragic that human beings are valued so little in the face of overwhelming greed that this is the best we can hope for.