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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

 

Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Roman J. Israel, Esq.

For movie lovers, anticipation and reality are the two states we inhabit in relation to any movie. When the reality turns out to be disappointment, we feel let down for ourselves and sympathetic toward the people who worked hard to make a good film. Roman J. Israel, Esq. was a big disappointment for me. Here’s the why of that.

For twenty-six years, Roman Israel (Denzel Washington) has been the in-office work horse of a two man criminal defense firm while his partner did the public work in the court system. That partner has had a heart attack and lies dying slowly in a hospital.

George (Colin Farrell), an upscale, successful lawyer, steps in to shut down the dingy office where Roman works to redesign the court system that punishes down and out lawbreakers without any effort toward rehabilitation. George hires Roman to address the social justice side of life in a token way in his own big firm.

This is a one man show for Denzel Washington and that is a big undertaking for one actor whose character rarely interacts with others and walks through life talking mostly to himself. His Roman Israel has an encyclopedic grasp of the criminal codes along with dedication to social justice, 1960s style.

For two hours this is what you will see: Roman coming to the office in ill matching old pants, shirt, and sweater or jacket, talking to himself about injecting rehabilitation into the system. His only social interactions unfold with George who hires him for his mastery of the criminal code and with Maya (Carmen Ejogo) who sees he is as troubled as she is. Even when he is with either of those two, he is muttering under his breath in an unreachable inner place. He cannot relax enough to get to know either of them. This is a man so trapped in himself that he can’t respond to the two people who reach out to him.

Roman searches for a job with civil rights in his heart and tears in his eyes as he sees his dream of a grand new era of social reform is of little importance in the world of modern law. Whenever he tries to sell his reform, he is dismissed as a nuisance. He is an eccentric in a world that sees little importance in his ideas. A few light hearted scenes unfold when he violates his own code to stay in a fancy hotel and cavort in the ocean. Can he walk comfortably in the shoes of a rich man?

Writer/director Dan Gilroy creates a character so absorbed in his own dreams that he is of little interest either to on screen characters or to theater audiences. One actor must create this man who is a prisoner in his own mind. He must carry the movie for two hours, and that’s a devil of a load for any actor, even for the grand Denzel Washington.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Word Count : 495
Running Time: 2:09
Rating : PG-13
Date : December 3, 2017

 

This review was posted on December 3, 2017, in Crime, Drama.