31 May 2009 | moonspinner55
Under-appreciated TV-movie starring a first-rate actress...
When Marsha Mason stopped making movies on a regular basis (television or otherwise), the world of cinema lost a great natural dramatic resource: feisty, fiery, forthright, and intensely human, Mason gets down to the grit of her characters and makes them approachable, companionable. This troubling true story about an ordinary, under-educated housewife in late-1970s Niagara Falls, New York--who almost accidentally became the spearhead of a revolt by the people against the government and chemical companies who were dumping toxins into their water supply--really needs Mason's spirit to get it over the proverbial red tape and academic detail. The teleplay has been conceived in such didactic terms that every scene plays like another chapter in a medical journal, with one human calamity landing atop another. Lois Gibbs started out fighting for one sick child, and ended up defending family, friends, neighbors, and strangers. She emerges as a true heroine, though this film about her uphill struggle is balky, occasionally talky, and visually ungainly. It also features a barrage of stubborn characters who are nearly rendered unbelievable by their dialogue (such as Gibbs' own husband who, upon hearing a litany of chemical-related travesties described in the newspaper, chalks it all up to media sensationalism!). Nevertheless, an emotionally gripping document in the David-and-Goliath vein, thanks in no small part to Mason's well-displayed heart and courage.