Anne Hathaway doesn’t get to be the funny one in The Devil Wears Prada. She has to be the voice of reason while Meryl Streep expounds on cerulean, Emily Blunt prays for her cube of cheese, and Stanley Tucci girds his loins. She’s the straight woman, and that made sense in that movie. But once again, I underestimated Anne Hathaway. Enter Ocean’s 8, which Hathaway single-handedly enlivens with a pouty, hilarious performance.
Hathaway plays Daphne Kluger, “the mark” in the heist led by Sandra Bullock’s Debbie Ocean, the criminal sister of George Clooney’s Danny Ocean, may he rest in peace. (Apparently.) Daphne is a glamorous movie star and the celebrity host of the Met Gala, at which Debbie intends to stage a robbery. Hathaway could have taken the easy way out and played Daphne as, basically, a heightened version of herself—but that’s not really what’s going on here. Sure, Daphne is in the same line of work as her progenitor and, obviously, has her exact face and body, but she’s not a bitchier or dopier Anne Hathaway. She’s someone else entirely.
Kluger is a perfect mashup of a modern famous person. She’s in Anna Wintour’s favor and does campaigns for high-fashion brands, but smacks gum whenever she gets the chance. She’s as image-obsessed as a Kardashian, but not so self-centered that she’s ignorant of what’s going on around her. She’s as ambitious and silly and a damn good actress. Just when you think you’re laughing at her, you realize that she’s laughing right along with you.
Hathaway has always acquitted herself well in comedies going back as far as her star-making performance as Mia Thermopolis in The Princess Diaries. Perhaps because of its unfortunate ugly duckling–to–swan narrative, Hathway arguably doesn’t get as much credit as she deserves for the pre-makeover Mia, a wonderful bundle of teenage awkwardness. Her most lauded transformations have come in quote-unquote serious roles, like her Oscar-winning cry-singing as Fantine in Les Miserables, but even some of those awards-bait roles are laced with acidic humor. (Just look at her ultra-coiffed cowgirl in Brokeback Mountain or her withering, recovering addict in Rachel Getting Married.) It’s in lighter fare when she’s often asked to be the boring one who has to let zaniness happen around her, like in Nancy Meyers’s The Intern, where Robert De Niro gets more action. (An exception to this rule: She’s always game to host Saturday Night Live, where she’s impersonated Claire Danes and romanced Mokiki.)
Everyone is good in Ocean’s 8—from Rihanna as a stoner hacker to Sarah Paulson as an incredibly efficient scammer—but it feels like a personal win for Hathaway. Because despite the fact that it’s been nearly six years since she was an object of ridicule during her awards-season campaign for Les Mis, she’s still frequently linked with the vitriol that was thrown her way. Last year, she appeared in Colossal, a small, weird monster movie with an anti-misogynist message that felt like a f— you to the public’s general impression of her. In Ocean’s, she feels totally free and is, in turn, completely captivating.
In the film (spoilers ahead!) Bullock’s Debbie and her partner, Cate Blanchett’s Lou, use Daphne to get access to a stunning, very valuable Cartier necklace known as the Jeanne Toussaint. They enlist washed-up designer Rose (Helena Bonham Carter) and through some carefully staged photo ops, convince Daphne to hire her to craft her look for the gala, which, of course, must include the glistening Toussaint.
This all makes Hathaway the odd woman out among the eight, so she’s not as beholden to a specific job when it comes to the thievery plot. Thus she’s allowed to play, whether that means making a series of insane orgasmic noises when she finally puts on the Toussaint necklace or dominating the conversation at her Met Gala table. (The seated guests include Katie Holmes and Zac Posen, plus an entire gaggle of celeb cameos milling around.) It’s certainly fun for the audience to watch, in large part because Hathaway seems to have so much fun acting it. But what she’s doing isn’t easy. She’s running as much of a con as anyone else onscreen.
All of this is to say we want more funny Anne Hathaway, and the good news is she seems to want that as well. Her next projects include her Dirty Rotten Scoundrels remake with Rebel Wilson called The Hustle, as well as a Barbie movie from Ocean’s 8 scribe Olivia Milch. This all portends a new age of Anne Hathaway. We’re here for it.