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Ocean’s 8

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Ocean's 8

What’s the test of a good comedy? In the case of Ocean’s 8 you know you’re having fun when you feel yourself rooting for the bad guys. When does that happen in this one? In the first scene. As Sandra Bullock’s Debbie Ocean concocts a grand lie to convince the parole boss to let her out of jail, we realize she has already created an entire plan for her next heist. She invites us on board and we jump.

She goes straight from jail to a store where she steals a few things to get back in thieving shape before assembling her new team. Her first enlistee is former partner Lou (Cate Blanchett). The two take a research tour through the Metropolitan Museum of Art where they plan their heist of a necklace worth $150 million.

You will be confused, as I still am, by the number of thieves and their operating speed but credit them all: Anne Hathaway (public focus), Helena Bonham Carter (down-on-her luck fashion designer), Mindy Kaling (jewelry maker), Rihanna (sublime mechanic), Awkwafina (pickpocket), and Sarah Paulson (suburbanite thief).

When else would they plan the heist except on the night of the Met’s annual gala? The team does its thoroughly confusing work while we watch the staff setting the elegant tables for top tier New Yorkers. As they arrive, we follow the men in their unimaginative black as they escort their dates in designer dresses, all of them ready and striving for press coverage. The fakery of that procession whets our appetites for the perfectly timed activities of the burglary team who are now executing their assignments – some in plain sight, some in hiding.

Following the robbers through the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a delight and whenever Debbie Ocean’s intricate theft plan becomes confusing, just enjoy the glorious art. It’s all right there as background for the gang of smart, sophisticated crooks who blend in with the tourists while executing their complex assignments.

The gang of eight is after a necklace and their way of getting it is intricate and full of fun. But getting it, as you’ll see is just the beginning of the plan. Each member of this unique gang has special skills along with a particular assignment from Ocean. The reason it adds up to wacky fun is that it never once pretends to be possible or serious. They give moviegoers a holiday from taking movies as seriously as most of us now do.

Sandra Bullock establishes all that in the first scene. “Here,” she is saying, “Take a rest from your serious life and have some wacky fun.” That’s precisely what we do. Bullock doesn’t dominate the screen but captures us with her sly smile and sharp brain. She has a very adult, quiet sophistication that draws us into all the fun she designs as Debbie Ocean including a wonderful final surprise. Take two hours off from your serious life to chuckle at the craziness she gives us.

Film Critic: Joan Ellis
Film Title: Ocean’s 8
Word Count: 497
Running Time: 1:50
Rating: PG-13
Date: June 24, 2018

 

Adrift

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Adrift

Early warning: I loved and admired Adrift without any reservation and am thoroughly pleased to be able to write about it. Director Baltasar Kormakur delivers the emotions of a young couple as they fall in love and then as they endure the massive hurricane of 1983 at sea.

Because the Icelandic director triggers audience emotion skillfully and without sentimentality, I urge you to leave your critical eye at home and sink into it. If you’re a sailor, don’t crush the mood by picking a fault here or there. Just get into this one with pleasure.

Tami (Shailene Woodley) is wandering the world supporting herself by doing physical work on docks. She is rootless, strong, and independent. Richard (Sam Claflin) is living his life at sea on the boat he has built with his own hands. Neither has a life plan other than to follow their instincts for water and boats. Both are, at the moment, happily rootless and unable to explain what brought each to this longing for the sea.

During a relaxed courtship that unfolds on the water off Tahiti, Richard is offered $10,000 by a couple who need someone to take their boat from there to San Diego. As the couple sails into the rising winds of the hurricane, director Kormakur begins a series of scene shifts between love and hurricane that add up to an extraordinarily moving portrait of these two young people. Nothing about their personalities, their abilities, or their depth of character is a cliché.

The depth and drive that actor Shailene Woodley calls on to create Tami holds us throughout. She is an individual who can be nearly broken by circumstance, but instead, rebounds. She and Sam Claflin create a couple facing death by weather with the same stoicism we saw in the two young people who met as they were building separate lives around the sea. Two lesser actors could easily have turned this couple into a cliché. Instead, the writers have created two young people who fled early family troubles to be near the sea. Each did that alone.

The filming of the storm itself and its effects on these two after 41 days adrift silences the theater. The filmmakers have created a hurricane that reveals nothing of pretend. We feel we are there in both the good and bad times, and that is rarely true in love stories or disaster movies. They have brought all of us right into the middle of the storm that threatens two people we care about quite genuinely. How many times a year do you feel yourself disappear from your theater seat into the story on that great big screen?

When we learn in the final credits that this movie is based on a true story I was surprised to find myself disappointed because I couldn’t quite believe the real players could possibly have been as quietly strong as those created by Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin. Please, just go.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Adrift
Word Count : 501
Running Time : 1:38
Rating : PG-13
Date : June 3, 2018