In Hollywood you could be forgiven for assuming Steven Soderbergh is the patron saint of actors. For this quietly spoken director of cultish, off beat movies has made something of a speciality in casting established talent and taking it off in new and unexpected directions.
From his debut with "Sex, Lies & Videotape", through recent successes like "Out of Sight", "The Limey" and now "Erin Brockovich", he has repackaged strong stories with familiar actors and consistently produced something surprising.
After losing a lawsuit against the driver who hit her already beat up car, Erin Brockovich (Roberts) seeks recompense from her lawyer - world weary Ed Masry (Finney) - in the form of a job. Knowing an unstoppable force of nature when he sees one, Ed agrees and hires her for basic secretarial duties.
While filing papers connected to a real estate case Erin becomes curious about some of the detail contained within them, and after being given permission to investigate further uncovers an appalling case of corporate negligence.
The result of their efforts is a riveting drama, made all the more fascinating for its basis in fact. Roberts plays the role with effortless charm and gritty conviction, yet true to Soderbergh's usual style there are other fascinating characters within the story too. Ed Masry is given much heart by Finney, while Aaron Eckhart is George, Erin's biker neighbour and sometime lover. But still, this is Roberts' film, and a timely reminder of a talent that had until recently been paddling in the shallow end of the acting pool.