This is something I think about.
In every movie you’ve ever seen, the actors that play the title characters do not exist in the movie’s fictional universe. Do you understand? Let’s go with Hollywood Homicide for example. It’s, I don’t know, some kind of buddy-cop movie with Harrison Ford, and he’s–look, the movie doesn’t matter. What matters is it’s a contemporary film in which Harrison Ford plays a main character.
Nobody in the film seems to recognize him as anybody other than his fictional self. Nobody says, “Gavilan! (I guess his character name is Gavilan, according to imdb. Just roll with it.) Anybody ever tell you you look exactly like Harrison Ford? I mean, exactly.” If a real person named Joe Gavilan existed in real life, and he looked like Harrison Ford, people would call him out on it. Like, all the time.
It follows that Harrison Ford doesn’t exist in this universe. He mustn’t, or the narrative makes no sense. Just, zero sense. Because nobody’s recognizing him! This is all pretty straightforward, right? Well, no, not quite.
If Harrison Ford doesn’t exist, then Indiana Jones doesn’t exist. Star Wars doesn’t exist. What would a world without Star Wars and Indiana Jones and Blade Runner even look like? Obviously special effects wouldn’t evolve, and big blockbuster movies would never become common, and since people can’t get their catharsis from film, all the world would be a stage for violence and theatrics. This is how all these larger-than-life moments are possible in movies–it’s because people in movies don’t live in a lazy, couch-potato, movie-marathon-watching world. That’s why they’re all beautiful and active and good at everything. They’ve got time to be.
I think I’ve stumbled onto something big, here.
But let’s get back on track. One movie in particular took this perfect logic and threw it in my face — a clear postmodern break. No, it’s not Being John Malcovich or The Last Action Hero or anything obvious like that. It’s Ocean’s Thirteen. Or, Twelve. I forget which. It doesn’t matter. What matters is Julia Roberts.
Listen: in Ocean’s 12/13, Brad Pitt’s character tells George Clooney’s character that Clooney’s character’s wife looks a lot like Julia Roberts. Later, they “dress up” Clooney’s wife (played, of course, by Julia Roberts) as Julia Roberts in order to distract someone. (Or something like that. I don’t know. I forget.) So this is a world in which Julia Roberts exists. Clearly. However, nobody is recognizing Clooney or Pitt, so it’s a world with Julia Roberts, but without Brad Pitt or George Clooney or any of the twelve or thirteen other yahoos. But Julia Roberts was in The Mexican with Brad Pitt before Ocean’s Eleven came out! So does The Mexican just not exist in the Ocean’s canon? Or would Brad Pitt have been recast due to nonexistence?
I’m pretty sure, at this point, we can assume that the purpose of Ocean’s Twirteen is to imply that Julia Roberts is a superfictional traveller, capable of existing and not-existing in multiple fictional and non-fictional universes simultaneously. It really is a complex postmodern experiment, flirting with genius. And wholly overlooked by the public–myself included. After all, I can’t even remember which of the two or three Ocean’s movies this happens in.
But that’s the genius of it! Right? Because