About ten years ago my family started an annual tradition in which we go to see a movie on Chritsmas afternoon. I’m not really sure why my sister was so eager to start this tradition, but, then again, I’m not going to complain about going to see a movie. The only difficulty is finding a movie that will keep me interested without offending my mother and sister, who are both very religious (my father prefers to sleep off his turkey buzz at home). This year, for the first time in several years, I genuinely enjoyed our Christmas selection.
Ocean’s Twelve (IMDB) is a genuinely entertaining film, a nice follow-up to the Vegas caper film, Ocean’s Eleven. Most (if not all) of Danny Ocean’s crew is back for the sequel, living on their earnings from the first film’s casino heist (about $19 million per person). Danny (George Clooney) and Tess (Julia Roberts) have settled into something resembling a domestic routine. They’ve bought a suburban home, and Tess is squabbling with painters over paint colors when she sees Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), victim of the first heist, approaching the door. He wants the money back. With interest.
Danny and Tess get the crew back together in Europe, reasoning that their crew wouldn’t be able to pull any more jobs in the States. But that’s just an excuse, I think, for director Steven Soderbergh to spend several months in Europe with some of his favorite actors. I won’t say anything about the capers themselves because that’s part of the fun of watching the film (as Roger Ebert notes in a solid review of the film).
What I enjoyed most about the film, however, was what seemed like Soderbergh’s sheer joy in making this kind of film. More than most directors, Soderbergh has a terrific pop sensibility, and he uses it well in this film. Ebert’s review cryptically mentions two “cameos,” but there’s a third one featuring Topher Grace (of That 70s Show) playing himself as an out-of-control actor who has destroyed a hotel room while partying. The camera is playful throughout the film with one long pan shot revealing the massive amount of alcohol consumed by Grace and his friends. This scene, relatively early in the film, clues us in that the film is very much about celebrity, and more broadly about performance.
Later in the film, Linus (Matt Damon in “sincere and intense” mode) has a conversation with Rusty (Brad Pitt), telling him that he’s “ready for a bigger role.” He’s talking about their upcoming heists, but he might as well be talking about the film itself, about the role that stardom plays in dictating who gets the most screen time. There’s also the question of celebrity among thieves, with Danny and his crew competing with European rivals regarding who is more famous. I won’t reveal the film’s other cameos, other than to say that they fit the film’s treatment of celebrity perfectly.