“Okay, here’s my idea for the movie. There’s this evil industrialist whose company makes some kind of chemical product and they’re secretly releasing toxins into the environment, polluting the air, soil, and streams because they’re too greedy to spend money to process the waste properly. People living in the vicinity of the plant start coming down with cancer and stuff and suspect that the company is responsible, but they can’t get anybody to listen to them or investigate because they don’t have the clout that the evil industrialist has in the community and they can’t afford to finance a lawsuit.
“Then, this crusading young attorney comes along and offers to represent them for free. Fighting against impossible odds, he wins the case and forces the evil industrialist to pay a giant settlement to all the people who think he made them sick.
“Yeah, yeah, I know it’s been done hundreds of times already, but people love stories about crusading attorneys going to bat against evil industrialists on behalf of the little guy. We’ll get somebody like Gene Hackman or Willem Dafoe to play the evil industrialist, and somebody like Ben Affleck or Mark Ruffalo to play the crusading attorney, and it’s a guaranteed blockbuster!”
Is that how the pitch went down for "Dark Waters," the latest of a seemingly endless series of movies that defame the risk-taking entrepreneurs whose businesses provide gainful employment for thousands and useful products and services for millions? We weren’t there for the pitch, but we do recognize a cheesy, fast-buck formula when we see one.
Opening this week, "Dark Waters" is a movie “inspired” by the litigation of Robert Bilott, an attorney who sued DuPont for leaking the allegedly cancer-causing perfluorooctanoic acid into water near its Teflon -producing Washington Works plant in Wood County. It does, indeed, star Mark Ruffalo, the sanctimonious Hollywood multimillionaire who delights in expressing contempt for the free enterprise system that made him rich.
DuPont executives say the movie is not an accurate portrayal of events. Did anyone think it would be?