' ' Cinema Romantico: Dream a Little Dream of Them

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Dream a Little Dream of Them

I think often about this one scene from “Ocean’s Twelve.” It happens near the end, when The Night Fox (Vincent Cassel) returns to his luxurious Lake Como villa to find his thieving rival Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and wife Tess (Julia Roberts) sipping his champagne on the balcony. It’s not so much what they talk about, no matter how crucial it may be, as it is the chemistry between Roberts and Clooney. To paraphrase former Notre Dame Football coach Lou Holtz explaining the campus’s mystique, Roberts and Clooney’s chemistry requires no explanation if you’ve seen it just as no explanation, really, would suffice if you haven’t. Their chemistry just is; it’s undeniable; it’s off the charts. They work charmingly, effortlessly, innately in one another’s company. Together, they reduce Cassel’s character to a bystander on the balcony of his own home, merrily communicating in what’s tantamount to secret code. (Roberts whispering into Clooney’s ear...shut it down. Just shut down the cinema and go home.) Every time I see it, every time I think about it, I think: God, what a waste, what an absolute waste that the movie industry has collectively, idiotically failed to harness this again in any real way since it happened nearly 20 years ago. That’s as big an indictment on modern movies as any.

I thought of this scene again just the other week when the 2014 Vanity Fair video of Julia Roberts and George Clooney having a side-by-side discussion for the magazine’s Hollywood issue of that year was uploaded to Twitter apparently apropos of no other reason than reveling in it all over again. Though the Vanity Fair interviewer asks them questions, their magnetism is such that they could be talking about anything, their star power virtually illuminated by the blank white wall behind them, putting the focus right where it needs to be. And though George mentions having a movie theater in his home, and though Julia cites the expensive Tiffany ring gifted to her by the “Ocean’s Eleven” team, they still come across not like you and me but relatable nevertheless because of the jovial way they b.s. one another. And that is to say nothing of Julia’s exalted laugh, which she deploys twice, the guffaw that elevates her into the firmament being the same thing that renders her down to earth. It’s always good hear to that laugh. 

I know, I know. Loyal frustrated followers are turning up their noses. “Is he on about this again,” you’re asking. He’s whining about a lack of Roberts/Clooney comedies every fifth post. But that’s the thing, I always wonder if I’m merely screaming into the void, consumed by an issue about which The People (as in, What The People Want) could not care less. And while reading the Twitter Tea Leaves is not the same thing as doing genuine market research, scrolling through the effusive replies and the quote tweets to this tweet of the Roberts and Clooney heartened me. I can’t say for certain that all these people were younger than me, but a good chunk seemed as though they were, and they were just as smitten with the self-evident chemistry. They saw it! They all saw it!

As much hope and joy as I felt scrolling through these replies, however, I also came away saddened by the fatalism in so many responses, those referring to Roberts and Clooney as the last two movie stars or the kind of white people, to borrow one phrase exactly, they just don’t make anymore. Maybe they don’t make ’em like Julia and George, fair, but the real reason we don’t see movie stars anymore is for the same reason that we too often discuss them in terms of box office receipts for some other sort of analytical b.s. unattuned to seeing movies as flickering myths. Movie Stars are about a feeling, the kind you get watching Julia and George in one another’s company, and it’s out there in other places too, I swear it is, in the space of Tessa Thompson and Michael B. Jordan in the “Creed” movies or Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in “La La Land”. Even Julia Fox in “Uncut Gems” “has got something”, as they said in “A Star Is Born.” Problem is, rather than specifically cultivating projects around stars, we have gone the other way. The concept, the almighty, dreaded I.P comes first. And though I know one viral Tweet won’t change anything, it was still comforting to see, if just for a moment, to see the allure of Roberts and Clooney justify its own existence, to see those stars shining so bright. 

No comments: