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Ocean’s 8 Review – Anne Hathaway’s Performance Is the Undeniable Highlight of Ocean’s 8
There is a moment in Ocean’s 8 when Anne Hathaway throws up. Just full on vomits. Her character Daphne Kluger, movie star and Met Gala co-chair, is poised and unattainable, but it’s in the moment that she throws up that Daphne becomes the standout character in a film of all-star actresses. The comedy up to that point is all one-liners and snark. But it’s Anne Hathaway’s full-body convulsions in a floor length gown that remind you that while Hathaway isn’t the first to throw up for comedic effect, she might be the funniest person to ever do it. It’s a small moment, but it counts.
Against an incredible ensemble cast, Hathaway gets the opportunity to play the most thought out character of the bunch: a vapid, biting Hollywood starlet who is much more astute than anyone initially gives her credit for. While vapid or biting aren’t the words anyone would use to describe Hathaway, the actress too keenly understands Daphne’s position.
Daphne spends more than half of the film separated from the rest of the star-studded cast because in this heist-comedy, she is not there for her expertise—she is the mark. It’s the six pound diamond necklace on her neck that the seven women conspiring behind the scenes want: not her, per se. And that’s always kind of been the problem with how society treats actresses like Hathaway. Daphne Kluger is the perfect meta role because she is on the outside of the action looking in, only useful to others because of what she can offer them. Without spoiling too much, Daphne finds her way into the fold. For Hathaway, it took a bit longer.
Some time in 2012, the public decided it didn’t love Hathaway anymore. On the awards circuit for Les Miserables, she was deemed too earnest while receiving acclaim for her portrayal of Fantine. Then, somehow, she was deemed insincere. She faced criticism after criticism, and it seemed the more awards she amassed (and she amassed most of them), the more hate poured out. She eventually won her Oscar for Les Miserables, the crown jewel of film acting, and then disappeared under a series of oversized hats. It’s a strange treatment we reserve for successful actresses: Jennifer Lawrence, Kristen Stewart, Anne Hathaway. Society decides that if they fly too close to the sun, we’ll make sure they get burned. Meanwhile, Leonardo DiCaprio’s campaign for an Oscar ran longer than both of Hillary Clinton’s campaigns for president.
Typically in the aftermath of these backlashes, the actresses in question fade into the background a bit. Lawrence’s moment came after her infamous parade of trips and “oh boy” moments. Mic declared that we had reached “Peak Jennifer Lawrence.” Stewart’s moment as a film star was always in jeopardy from the moment Twilight debuted. She was deemed polarizing, and though indie performances solidified her as a bonafide actress, both she and Lawrence backed away from a glaring spotlight determined to find the flaw in this new shiny thing we had started recognizing.
In the past six years, Hathaway tackled fewer films than she had leading up to Les Mis, but it seemed that every time she did, headlines popped up suggesting it was a surprise she had turned out a noteworthy performance. It’s a strange backhanded compliment, as if the strange social vitriol (again, fueled by her gratefulness) that pushed her out of the spotlight had managed to compromise her talent.
The real secret that’s never been much of a secret at all is that Anne Hathaway has always produced fantastic performances. She’s shown her ability to anchor mass successes from Disney films to the perfect kitchens of Nancy Meyers creations, but her most powerful work lies in the moments that often get overlooked. When three of Brokeback Mountain’s cast members were in contention for an Oscar, Hathaway’s name didn’t make it into the conversation. But it was her short time on camera that served as one of the most measured and poignant moments of the film, and it’s all in a scene where Hathaway acts with no one at all. With a tight shot on her face, she delivers a deadpan fake explanation of how her husband died. The shot is only interrupted by quick flashes of his actual death as tears build in her eyes. Her voice never wavers though, except for one brief audible sigh at the end.
That’s what a lot of Anne Hathaway’s career has been—subtle brilliance that has largely gone unnoticed. She got her trophy for Les Mis (although amid pushback), but hardly gets credit when it comes to the likes of Rachel Getting Married, Colossal, and even Interstellar.
Similar to Les Mis, Ocean’s is packed with some of the best actresses of our time and fun performances, but it’s Hathaway’s ability to do so much with small moments that makes Daphne such a perfect character to watch. Whether she’s snipping at her assistant or acting against herself and Helena Bonham Carter in a mirror (seriously, the mirror scene is one of the best moments in the film), she milks it for all that its worth. She takes a stereotype and makes it political, devious, but most importantly—hysterical.
Let Ocean’s 8 be the moment where all the Hatha-haters out there realize they’ve been wrong all along. Because Hathaway never stopped being a phenomenal actress, it was just everyone else who stopped paying attention.