Film Review – Ocean’s 8
The biggest flaw of Ocean’s 8 (2018) is the title. Not only is it numerically confused as a sequel to the Ocean’s trilogy (consisting of Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, and Ocean’s Thirteen), but it also has to carry the burden of being yet another spin off of a franchise – the transparent effort of a studio to make a profit by exploiting a familiar brand. I say this because as a standalone, female driven heist film – it’s entertaining. In terms of structure and execution, it doesn’t do much that we haven’t seen before. But with this cast, the appeal is entirely within their chemistry. Some of the best moments are simply when the characters are riffing with one another.
But then we have to reminded that, yes, this is the same world George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and their band of misfits went gallivanting around in three previous installments, each one more and more ridiculous. I agree that in our current social landscape, the need for diverse representation is highly important. In this instance, though, a “Female Version of Ocean’s Eleven” does Ocean’s 8 a disservice. Every time the story starts to pick up steam, we have to be reminded that Danny Ocean (Clooney) was once a big time player in this world. We even get a picture of Clooney thrown in to remind us of this fact. This film (directed by Gary Ross, cowritten by Ross and Olivia Milch) works well enough to not need the crutch of an established franchise’s label. I would actually be more drawn to this if it had its own identity and title, kicking off an entirely brand new series.
Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), following in the footsteps of her brother Danny, is fresh out of prison with only one thing in mind: crime. Her prize is a six pound diamond necklace that’s so precious that it has to be escorted by armed guard. She concocts a plan to steal the necklace off the movie star Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) during New York’s Met Gala. Along with her partner in crime Lou (Cate Blanchett), Debbie assembles a crew of differing personalities, all of which play an important role in the heist. Rose (Helena Bonham Carter) is an eccentric designer knee deep in debt, Amita (Mindy Kaling) can cut diamonds, Nine Ball (Rihanna) is an expert hacker, Constance (Awkwafina) is a skilled pickpocket, and housewife Tammy (Sarah Paulson) has a knack for moving packages that need to be moved.
The preparation of the plan operates with the same mechanics we’ve seen before. The crew forms, they gather intel, plot strategies, place the necessary pieces in their proper spots, etc. It’s fairly straightforward. In many heist films, there always comes a moment where a character may switch motivations or an unexpected circumstance arises throwing everything into disarray. While these instances pop up, none of them really cause a true sense of suspense. Because this works more as a comedy, the obstacles only act as mere bumps in the road. Everything has an answer. Rihanna’s character is the ultimate get out of jail card. Whenever a security camera is inconveniently placed or the crew needs a map of a location, Nine Ball is there to simply click a few buttons on her keyboard and voila, problem solved.
Seeing these performers having fun on screen is where the true joy of Ocean’s 8 comes through, the heist itself sits at a distant second. Cate Blanchett has such an ease about her as Lou that it feels as though being a con artist was the only possible occupation she could have. Her relationship with Debbie makes me want to learn more about how the two hooked up in the first place. Helena Bonham Carter’s performance as the fashion designer is a combination of anxiety, sadness, and determination. Her character knows that her time in the spotlight may have passed, so she uses this opportunity to give every creative effort she has left. But of the cast, Anne Hathaway steals the show as the glamorous, high maintenance movie star. She’s clearly parodying the stereotype, given that she actually is a celebrity of the highest order. Every groan, eye roll, laugh, and complaint she expresses looks like she’s having a ball doing so.
I’m not going to say that Ocean’s 8 is a great heist picture. If I were asked to list out my favorite movies featuring a heist or caper, I doubt this would be on it. But I still found myself having a good time. There’s an energy that seeps through in the pacing, performances, and tone. No one appears to be taking the plot all that seriously, even though everyone involved is convincing in their respective parts. Even with the obligatory explanation scene – where all the secrets are revealed and plot twists uncovered – somehow works even though all of the answers come about arbitrarily. In the end, it was perfectly fine. And you know what: that’s all right with me.