Friday, June 22, 2018

Ocean’s Eight: Things to Do in Denver When You’re Wet

 I was recently in Denver, a beautiful state but (at least during my visit) a rainy one. On my last day, I ran out of museums and historic sites to visit, and it was too wet for outdoor recreation. That’s why I found myself in a large, posh Cherry Creek shopping mall, watching some of Hollywood’s grandest dames commit major larceny. In the process of stealing a fabulous diamond necklace, they walked off with my heart too. I admit it: I’m a sucker for clever heist movies, and this one is a lulu.

For one thing, it makes fabulous use of its New York settings. There is, of course, the museum of museums: the awe-inspiring Metropolitan Museum of Art, on the occasion of its fabled high-fashion gala. (Some of the world’s most storied real-life movers and shakers can be glimpsed as guests.)  We also see one of New York’s grandest jewelry stores in all its glory. But, by way of contrast, we also get a glimpse of hipster New York and grunge New York, fire escapes and food trucks. Our characters get to dress up and dress down, posing as glamour queens and as the humbler folk who serve them.

I’m not always a fan of movies that re-work male starring vehicles as a statement of female empowerment. Ocean’s Eight of course borrows from the 2001 George Clooney/Brad Pitt Ocean’s Eleven, itself a more modernized version of the old Rat Pack flick released 40 years earlier. The premise here is that the departed Danny Ocean’s sister, played by Sandra Bullock, gets out of prison, determined to make herself rich while righting a few wrongs. (Yes, it’s possible to consider her behavior as a kind of over-the-top #metoo statement.) She’s an expert con artist, with an admirable talent for taking things to which she’s not entitled. Of course part of the fun is seeing her assemble her team, which includes a sensible second-in-command (a punked-out Cate Blanchett), a computer whiz (Rihanna), a jewelry expert (Mindy Kaling), a light-fingered homegirl (the intriguing Awkwafina), and a suburban mom with a secret (Sarah Paulson). Helena Bonham Carter, always a treat in ditsy roles, plays an out-of-fashion fashionista with delicious aplomb. And then there’s Anne Hathaway as the dim-bulb Hollywood star whose swan-like neck will bear the fabled Toussaint necklace that has been escorted out of the Cartier vault for the occasion.

What’s fun about the gender switch here is that it makes a sly comment on women’s social role as creatures of beauty and fashion. The conspirators are so darned attractive that most of the folks they encounter don’t think them capable of major chicanery. There’s also the fact that the three characters of color (those played by Kalin and her two single-named castmates) are able to forward the scheme by blending in as janitors, kitchen workers, and servers. (They also eventually get to blossom like butterflies in fabulous gowns.) But it’s especially pertinent that greed is not the group’s only motivation. We’re left with an ending in which we realize that what Bullock’s character wants most of all is the emotional satisfaction of staying true to her brother’s memory.

The movie smartly makes room for the actresses’ idiosyncratic talents, like Bullock’s comfort with the German language and Bonham Carter’s lovely French. And it provides a delightful role for James Corden as an insurance investigator who’s more complicated than he seems. So is one of the other main characters, which makes for yet another of the film’s nice surprises. Bravissima! This is hardly a deep film, but surely worth coming out of the rain.

No comments:

Post a Comment