It is a fact universally acknowledged, that a heist of any measurable ambition, must be in bond with its most crucial element—the suave. “Ocean’s 8” has suave. It has Rihanna, for starters, and Cate Blanchett to rest my case. Its hoaxers, a circle of women with searing talent and charisma, can doubtless pull an elaborate plot of thievery, and hip-high hemlines to go along with. For thieves, they look gorgeous on-the-job, a fact that should not chuck the fact that they’re bona fide felons out the gondola, but here we are, aren’t we? Getting away with stealing millions of dollars’ worth of jewelry, here, is made supremely watchable because, partly, that’s the genre’s appeal, and wholly, that’s the gift of a cast as supreme as the one that’s built here.
That, in essence, is the m.o. of great heist films; where it lacks in moral malleability, it makes up for the fizz of its spectacle. That factoid bids well for “Ocean’s 8”, which gets very entertaining, as all good heist films should be. It’s just not wholly interesting, much less feels inspired.
To start, it’s an impression of a film lifted off of Steven Soderbergh’s classic—and sadly, frustratingly, nothing more. Danny Ocean (George Clooney) is seemingly dead, and his “close” sister, Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), whom we’d never seen in the first trilogy, walks out of jail with the same winsome bounce to her feet. She heads straight for small-time hustler and her most trusted confidant, Lou (Cate Blanchett), to whom she pitches a plan that can score them millions quick, cheap, and squeaky clean. The plan—and watch as my eyes roll to the back of my head while I say it—is to steal a crazy-expensive Cartier necklace at the Met Gala. I’m thinking because any Anna Wintour event will look just as fabulous, be it in its own hyper-exclusive glory, in its birthing of ostensibly whimsical creatures such as the Hiddleswift, and specific to this film, as it’s being robbed.
To pull off the heist, though, Debbie must lasso in other ladies to the party. That rule feels solemnly sacred, as echoed in a scene in which Debbie sneers at the mere suggestion of adding a man to the team. “I don’t want a him,” she expels air out of her hairless nasals. “A him gets noticed, a her gets ignored, and, for once, we want to be ignored.” O.K., I guess? Onward, then, Debbie moves with the plan, recruiting a fence (Sarah Paulson), a jewelry grader (Mindy Kaling), a cyber-hacker (Rihanna), and a pickpocket (Akwafina). She will also need a designer to insist the paramount importance of the Cartier piece to her design, and an a-list celebrity to put it on. Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter), a down-on-her-luck fashion designer further evading a tax evasion case, and Daphne Kluger (a gloriously funny Anne Hathaway), who up until the third act, acts, looks, and thinks like a pale little Hollywood melon, seem good enough stand-ins.
Some logical lapses later, the plan is set in motion, and so does the film, which hits its runway-ready, picture-perfect stride at the gala where the heist culminates. Debbie’s R&D, expectedly, misses a few spots. But pay it no mind, the screenplay, co-written by Ross and Olivia Milch (of Netflix’s “Dude”), insists, as things, frustratingly, sort themselves out. To quote another supreme: can you believe? But gosh darn it, is this film fun to watch?! Anyone with a drop of gayness to boast will get a kick out of Cate Blanchett’s outfits; if chef couture doesn’t become a thing this year, I’d be completely eviscerated. And Anne Hathaway, in the funniest role I’ve seen her in, is a complete neckful of a riot and is easily the best part of the film.
If my math is right, Ross has three characters less to weave into his story, and yet he does little in the way of giving his characters any intrigue. The eight femmes here feel like mere shells to the film’s beat-by-beat reiteration of the Soderbergh original, which is to say they look good and are doubtless fun to watch committing crime, but then what? There’s little female truth here than there is female branding, and it behooves me to publicly wonder what greater treasure the film would have been if it had been under the helm of a female. Certainly, the film is female-driven, but it feels as though its story drifts its tires in a man’s world. Outside of the subject of gender, too, “Ocean’s 8”, as a heist film, is rather loose, conflict-less, and—make way for a big gasp—just drab, noncommital fun.
2018 / Comedy, Crime / US
Debbie Ocean gathers an all-female crew to attempt an impossible heist at New York City’s yearly Met Gala.
Director: Gary Ross
Writers: Gary Ross, Olivia Milch
Stars: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna, Akwafina, Helena Bonham Carter