Out Of Sight (1998) Directed By Steven Soderbergh

It's all about timing. This applies to cinema as much as any other creative movement. But as of this time, George Clooney seems one-dimensional, Soderbergh doesn't feel like he will develop into a great auteur and Jennifer Lopez really blew it after this movie. Out Of Sight was not the movie I remember, time has not been kind to this picture.

1998 is a pretty weird time historically. We were on the cusp of computer technology completely overwhelming society, mobile phone culture was about to explode worldwide. It's really hard to say what that time represents other than the winding down of the Century, the War On Terror just around the corner. 1998 almost seems innocent now. And Soderbergh, the indie cinema geek, was about to break into the big time, Out Of Sight was the first sign of this and his first collaboration with Clooney. This film is not the equal of Traffic or Erin Brockovich, both fine mainstream pictures, or even the underrated Solaris remake. Out Of Sight was a dry run for the lucrative and smug Ocean's franchise.

But wait, what's wrong with this? It's well acted, joining Clooney and Lopez is a wonderful cast: Ving Rhames, Catherine Keener, Don Cheadle and Albert Brooks among others. As with a lot of Soderbergh it has a fine David Holmes curated soundtrack. This is slick film making. Clooney and Lopez have genuine chemistry, so often lacking these days. It's based on an Elmore Leonard book, another plus. But Out of Sight  in 2010 also feels bitty and dragging.  The apt word for Out of Sight now is stale. Out of Sight could be where the smug liberalism and well being of 00's Hollywood cinema started. I'm talking about Goodnight & Goodluck, Syriana and Soderbergh's own Traffic as well as other well meaning pictures. Does this political cinema already feel stale as well? Does it need time to become as iconic and fresh as the 70's cinema it was so in awe of?

I have to wait five or more years to watch Out of Sight again, to see if it gets better, to see if Soderbergh, who I rate highly, develops a spine. It's galling to me that the best thing in this film is Jennifer Lopez. Despite all the things that she's not, in this movie she is hot, lights up the screen and is definitely not Jenny from the Block.

In 1999 I lived in Ann Arbor 30 minutes from Detroit (some of Out of Sight takes place there). Eminem was in the hood, Jennifer Lopez was about to invade as the girl in a fountain and the girl in sci-fi all white (although I knew very little about them because I was listening to Rickey Lee Jones and the latest Beck album). I bought my first black leather boots (hardly any heels though) and my first jeans at a mall. I flew back to Finland on the dreaded night of Y2K. Muffins hadn't arrived here yet, or chai lattes, or Celestial Seasoning.

I don't know if you feel the same, but there was a real innocence present still. And a cultural difference. You could get things and feelings in Ann Arbor that you could only dream of in Helsinki. You could feel the distance.

Out of Sight reminds me of that lost innocence. J-Lo was still a promising actress and an up-coming singer. George Clooney did the weird-suit-guy role for the first time, so it didn't feel like repetition.
Tight knee-long leather jackets and acrylic turtle necks were sexy and freeze-frame seemed like a fresh effect on sex scenes in movies.

In 2010 that innocence is irretrievably lost. Considering cinema, Out of Sight is just a very average American prison-escape-bank-robbery thriller, which already references Bonnie and Clyde in its first minutes. In comparison to Soderbergh's other directed films, this one isn't even stylistically as quirky as his others. There is a straightness, which amounts to being uninteresting. What ever happened in the 1990s? A lack of daring imagination plagued everyone? Was life too comfortable and slow?

In the 2000s George Clooney became a political activist, Jennifer Lopez turned into a booty-shaking letter combination, I grew up and had a muffin in Helsinki and a sauna in Texas. Everything and everywhere is just one 'click' away now.


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