Ocean's Thirteen and the "Enormity of Success"
- Friday, June 08, 2007
DVD Release Date: November 13, 2007
Theatrical Release Date: June 8, 2007
Rating: PG-13 (for brief sensuality)
Run Time: 122 min.
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Actors: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Al Pacino, Matt Damon, Ellen Barkin, Elliot Gould, Carl Reiner, Don Cheadle, Andy Garcia, Bernie Mac, Casey Affleck, David Paymer
During Ocean’s Thirteen—the follow-up to Ocean’s Twelve, which was a sequel to Ocean’s Eleven, which itself was a remake of a 1960 Rat Pack movie—a character congratulates hotel owner Willie Bank (Al Pacino) on “the enormity of [his] success.”
It’s not clear whether the screenwriters intentionally misused the word “enormity,” which, in today’s English, is unfortunately substituted all too often for “enormousness,” rather than conveying the word’s proper definition, according to the American Heritage Dictionary: “excessive wickedness or outrageousness,” or secondarily, “a monstrous offense or evil; an outrage.” But it’s instructive to ponder the idea, as properly defined, of “the enormity of success.” Can someone succeed in an outrageous manner?
Director Steven Soderbergh surely has. The filmmaker exploded on the film scene with Sex, Lies and Videotape in 1989 before pursuing a narrow artistic vision for smaller and smaller audiences during most of the 1990s. (Has anyone see Soderbergh’s Schizopolis?). He roared back in 2000 with Traffic, which garnered both critical and commercial interest, and won Soderbergh a Best Director Oscar (he also was nominated separately that year for directing Erin Brockovich.)
What lessons had the chastened but still passionately idiosyncratic director learned from numerous independent failures? Would he go the commercial route, resorting to big-budget films with tight studio control, or revert to the more personal cinema with much narrower appeal? He decided to alternate one with the other.
In 2001, Soderbergh made Ocean’s Eleven—a box-office bonanza that cemented his reputation as an adept handler of big movie stars and big budgets. The ticket sales for the first Ocean’s film helped Soderbergh make the little-seen Full Frontal, while his work on Ocean’s Twelve helped set up the experimental Bubble.
The director’s plan appears to be working out. He’s able to pull major dollars for the Ocean’s films (although his high-profile Solaris and The Good German both failed), and still pursue less commercial work. So the strategy is paying off for the director, but is it working as well for viewers? Or has Soderbergh come to exemplify the “enormity of success”?
The director’s latest film is not “a monstrous offense or evil,” but it is disappointing. An outrage? Not really, but that’s the disappointing aspect of Ocean’s Thirteen: It’s hard to care about it much at all.
George Clooney returns as Danny Ocean, who gathers his gang of crooks together once more, this time to avenge a wrong done to one of the original eleven. Reuben Tishkoff (Elliot Gould) has been outfoxed by Bank, a business partner known for taking advantage his closest friends. With their new hotel/casino about to open in Las Vegas, Bank cuts Reuben out of the action completely, leaving him traumatized and bed-ridden.
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