Resources and Reviews

Films: Movies in the theater, videos, DVD's, and other kinds of films.

On Video:
Erin Brockovich
Pay It Forward

On Video: Erin Brockovich

Erin Brockovich, based on a true story, poses and answers the question, "What can one person do with 'little or no education, experience, training or knowledge?" She, a single mother is unable to find work to support herself and three children. After an embarrassing interview and rejection which opens the film, we share her experience of adding injury to frustration as her car is broad sided in the intersection just outside her job interview, by a Mercedes driven by a wealth doctor. She winds up in the office of a personal injury attorney, wearing a neck collar. This is followed by a tense court scene with Erin getting rattled, damaging her case. Next we see her with an unsatisfactory result and still no job.

Her lawyer, filing papers in his office, soon sees unstoppable Erin. Incredulously he asks one employee after another, "What's she doing here?" Followed with the stunning simple reply, "She works here." In an immediately ensuing interaction, what begins is a stunning collaboration, which starts inauspiciously with a shouting match, with expletives and finally a whispered, "Don't make me beg. I have three kids to feed, don't make me beg." This interaction sets the tone for a story that is moving, heart-felt, real (authentic), unfettered with allegiance to convention and wonderfully heroic.

Tom Peters, in his recent new book, "Project 50, To Transform Every Task Into a Project That Matters," talks about what distinguishes ordinary humans who make history, in the following ways: "Creative, quirky, peculiar, impatient and paradoxically, prepared to stay the course makes lots of people mad; rebels, in-the-establishments face; flouts the chain of command; irreverent; tuned into followers needs and aspirations; absurdly good at what they do; flawed; big pluses/big minuses; BONE-HONEST; and a master of improvisation…this wonderfully describes Erin Brockovich, better than anything I can think of and thus paints a capsule portrait of her. As such, what a great example of the ordinary, flawed human, making a mark on history, as in fact the real Erin did.

It stars Julia Roberts it what may be her most compelling role (later acknowledged with her first Oscar.) yet; she's believable and powerful in showing us the kind of difference each and every one of us can make in the world with a big problem, no matter what our limitations seem to be.

What this story illustrates movingly and compellingly and brilliantly is, that when a person meets a challenge with which they identify and about which they profoundly care, no one is unqualified for anything…anything! When it comes to people, animals, the environment, whatever or whoever suffers the consequences; and a person responds passionately, there's no telling what can result or be created by such a level of involvement.

The first scene showing her interviewing for a job involving health care, with no conventional qualifications, shows Erin earnestly imploring, 'I have three children, and after taking them to dozens of doctor's visits, and making repeated health decisions for them; certainly that has prepared me for a health-related job." This plea is prophetic and reveals the ultimate irony of the story: Our society doesn't recognize the most important qualification and denies so many by ignoring vital traits, characteristics and experience. This opening scene effectively parodies and foreshadows the breakthrough of this gutsy hero. She goes on to defy conventional notions of just who is qualified and for what. If we can get as a society just how creative the ordinary human is, that realization would show us that none of our usual measures matters in the possibility of a human making a difference. What's at stake is the end of "glass ceilings", often arbitrary degree requirements, dress codes and social decorum; none of it matters when a person is unstoppable. If you can make something happen, that has never before happened, and you most certainly can, in ways you've barely begun to imagine; then you can be in the driver's seat in your life. You can invent whole new possibilities, and literally be the leader in your life.

Erin shows us what any of us can do, and more, much, much more. This life of yours can be your show, and if you choose you can be the star, or if you'd prefer play a "Oscar-worthy' supporting role; or a behind the scenes creative role. The important thing to get is that because she did it, you could do something equal or greater, we all can.

The Birth of Transformation

Again, this film establishes dramatically that qualifications are what you make them. Erin took a stand, then became her stand, that is, she was one with her stand, integrated with it, being her stand. This is an unfamiliar idea in our culture. This concept is based on the idea that transformation occurs when you alter the context and/or your state of being. Instead of doing something differently or different things, you shift your being and/or the assumptions, beliefs, awareness that the doing is based on. Consequently what you notice and are able to utilize or accomplish dramatically expands. You might call this expanding the space or field of possibilities, and thus in a practical way much more "becomes" possible…for you. You might say that you've made a clearing for possibility to happen.

As we see vividly and believably in the film story, because a discovery in a file led to a mission beginning as a sense of purpose, more became possible than if her access was in the context of a job description. She expanded the context and became a professional sleuth. She wasn't merely being nosy; she found the questions around her discovery disturbing and could sense possible danger to the people involved. This mattered to her and became the motivation to explore for underlying truth. While the discovery of a seemingly misplaced file component initially generated curiosity, through her initiative and unwillingness to leave the discovery as she found it, curiosity turned into purpose and a mission. That shift in context and her state of being created transformation.

What developed was gaining authority to explore further for answers. Soon, the search got out of hand and she became immersed in the purpose of this new life mission.

I know that feeling and I can tell you it's delicious; and it can be irresistible. One author, called This state of total, selfless absorption "flow".

Just like the simple observation she made in the file, the simple question she asked, the birth of an extended inquiry-out of such simple acts and observations in our every day experience, a life-changing saga can be born to any of us, as it did to Erin. It requires us to be present, in the moment, awake to possibility. Out of such simple happenings great result can happen. (We are all like little acorns.) She refused to stop where typically any of us, immersed in the routines of our life, would never give it a second though. A life-changing moment would sneak by us.

Once she began to realize what was at stake, the lives and well-being of hundreds, maybe thousands of folks, just folks; human beings, families, kids---people trusting and soon being led against their best interests, deceptively by their paternalistic corporate neighbor, their multi-billion dollar corporate giant neighbor with its malicious, corrupt employees, its criminal executives.

Here are the disturbing echoes of the Wigland case and his big tobacco employer hiding the nasty secret of how toxic and addictive the components of cigarettes are from the public as portrayed in the recent film about the 60 Minutes TV show betrayal.

Just how many cases are there of corporate betrayal, cover up, criminal conspiracy and damage to thousands of consumers. This story hopefully makes us all wonder and like Erin in our own way investigate or prompt others to inquire. We've seen such heroism in Norma Rae and and the story of the atomic radiation contamination in the film with Cher in the early '80s. These are all based on true stories and are great examples of what one ordinary person can do.

Most importantly, it shows what each and every one of us has going for us and the difference we can make…and just how qualified we really are, right now. Yes, these are all great David and Goliath stories. They reveal the greatness in us all.

On Video: Pay It Forward

Not only was I taken in by this unique story and situation; many times being moved to tears, here, unlike all but a few films, I frequently gasped, even choked with emotion. As a result the folks in front of me turned around a number of times, apparently in concern for my well-being.

These were wonderful gasps, for I was caught up in an awareness of what ultimately matters in life; that one person can make a difference and because of it many more can have an impact on the world around them, and far more than they might of imagined.