American Beauty and The Cider House Rules, both winners at Sunday night's Oscar ceremony, performed well at the box office this weekend as audiences checked out the contenders. More moviegoers, however, were checking out Julia Roberts' lead performance in Erin Brockovich, which many Christian critics are predicting will figure prominently in next year's Oscar race.

Erin Brockovich ($18.5 million)

Christian reviewers were highly pleased with this film, which is based on a true story. The film portrays a down-on-her-luck single mom who helps the cancer-stricken residents of Hinkley, California, form a legal case against the power company that poisoned their groundwater. Roberts' performance earned unanimous praise; The Phantom Tollbooth's J. Robert Parks even forecasts that "Julia can start making plans for the 2001 Oscars. … Here's a meaty role with a lot to do, and Roberts nails every scene." Reviewers had even higher praise for the woman Roberts portrays. Paul Bicking of Preview says "there's much to admire in Erin's character. She respects people and approaches them honestly and sometimes bluntly. When others would give up, she hangs on and fights for those she thinks need her help." Focus on the Family's Steven Isaac echoes those praises: "Erin's compassion and love for people always outshines her drive to win the case. … Erin is callused and hardened by her lot in life and her two derelict ex-husbands, but she never completely closes herself off." Both Bicking and Isaac refrained from recommending the film, however, due to Brockovich's foul language and revealing attire. This was not the case for other critics, who felt these elements were essential to the film. "[The movie] is about Erin's fight for respect and acceptance ...

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