The movie Ocean's Twelve, which came out in 2004, is one of my favorite movies of the last ten years. (Make of that what you will.) I don't know how many times I've watched it -- certainly a dozen, which seems right and just. Part of my affection for the movie stems from a little detail at the beginning of the movie. We see Danny Ocean (George Clooney) talking to a bank employee, talking about safe deposit boxes and retirement funds, and a caption flits onto the screen: East Haven, Connecticut. The moment I saw this, my first thought was: Why would a guy like Danny Ocean be in East Haven, Connecticut? And why does the shot of him leaving the bank and strolling through the center of town, then dumping his flowers into the trash so he can rush back to his wife, Tess, show a quaint, charming, subtly-decorated New England town which bears no resemblance to East Haven, Connecticut? He’s not in any East Haven I’ve ever seen; he’s in Guilford. He’s in Litchfield. He’s somewhere in Connecticut, sure -- but it sure as hell isn’t East Haven. I've discussed this with people who are more capable of nuanced thought than I. My original theory was, "Whoever wrote the movie (George Nolfi) thinks that all of Connecticut is like Westport, and has no idea that East Haven is just this blue collar town where rich people do not go to retire, where art curators are not going to redecorate their beach house and quibble with the housepainters about how much brown to add to the white paint." That it was a mistake borne out of ignorance of the true cultural geography of Connecticut.
But a cooler head suggests that perhaps the explanation is more complicated but also more mundane: that the screenwriter knew what he was doing when he wrote "East Haven, Connecticut," but that the director (Steven Soderbergh) didn't know what was envisioned by Nolfi when he went to film, and so, that segment of the movie wound up being the stereotypical "Connecticut" that people are used to in Hollywood product (with the exception of Mystic Pizza, which does a pretty good job of depicting working class life in Mystic -- at least, it LOOKS like Mystic, and not Westport. Or Guilford). The cooler head suggests that perhaps a town like East Haven would actually be an excellent place for Danny Ocean to hide out: claiming he’s a retired high school basketball coach, he’d have a chance to just blend into the community.
But here's what I'm having fun thinking about now: how lots of people who watch that movie from now on will see that little line of text -- East Haven, Connecticut -- and it's gonna mean something different now because of this hullabaloo with the mayor and tacos and the cops who've been harassing the Latinos who've been making East Haven their homes for the last 20 odd years.
When you factor in Ocean’s pseudonym, which he takes on to blend in to the charming little community of East Haven, is Diaz, the whole thing just becomes more comical. Wrong ethnic group to pick, it seems, if you're trying to sketch a character who's just trying to blend in. But maybe someone knew this would be a problem. When Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) asks Ocean, “How’s East Haven?” Ocean doesn’t skip a beat. “Sucks,” he says. So perhaps the screenwriter knew something about the real East Haven after all?
I am a sucker for bloopers -- you know, the gag reels they tack onto DVDs as “extras” off the main menu -- and it seems to me that more than ever, those opening scenes of “Ocean’s Twelve” are just one giant blooper. Mr. and Mrs. Diaz, you really picked the wrong place to go if you were trying to escape the attention of local police. Fortunately, in your cases, though, it was just a movie.