Practicing a pep talk in the bathroom mirror while getting glammed up for the Met Gala, Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) says to herself, “You’re not doing this for me. You’re not doing this for yourself. You’re doing this for all the eight-year-old girls at home dreaming of being a criminal one day.” This tongue-in-cheek joke is also a poke at the countless neigh-sayers and online trolls in the world asking the same question they asked of the gender-swapped Ghostbusters, what is the point of remaking a classic film with women, other than for the sake of putting an abundance of women onscreen? The unfortunate answer here is, there isn’t much of one.
Filled with ample moments of nostalgia, the same sort of fun and gags of the George Clooney-led Ocean’s series and some pretty all-star performances from a stacked cast, Ocean’s 8 hits most of its marks, aside from doing anything new, different, elevated, or refreshingly comedic.
The new film follows Bullock as Danny Ocean’s sister Debbie, another high-stakes thief, as she is being released from 5 years of prison, serving time after being conned by a former beau (Richard Armitage). As an act of revenge, she puts a con in motion that she took all 5 years of her prison sentence to concoct — steal $150 million worth of jewels from a single necklace at the upcoming Met Gala. She brings the plan to her partner-in-crime, Lou (Cate Blanchett), and the women take off from there, filling in the rest of the spots for their team, including characters played by Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna, Awkwafina, and Helena Bonham Carter. Their way in is actress Daphne Kluger (Anna Hathaway), who becomes an amusingly strong asset.
Screenwriters Gary Ross and Olivia Milch create a grand elaborate scheme for their ladies to pull off, admiringly so. The only downfall is that everything comes extremely easy to Debbie, who has thought up every obstacle during her incarceration, so much so that each hiccup barely registers. While it is highly entertaining to watch a group of nine women figuratively kick ass in gowns and stilettos, it’s more like watching a highlight reel of Soderbergh’s classic flashy smoke and mirrors than it is seeing some compelling tension onscreen — something every movie should have, I would hope.
And while the Ocean’s films have historically employed clever, gentleman’s comedy, it would have been nice to see the jokes stand out in this film. Each character was amusing in their own ways, particularly Kaling, who likely drew the biggest laughs of all the women, but also equally flat. I personally laughed twice in the film, and it was both for lines delivered by James Corden in the third act, quite a while to wait for a hard-hitting joke not delivered by one of the film’s female stars.
Moving past these short disappointments, the dialogue, in general, was quite intelligent, as was the pace of the film, thanks to Ross, who also served as the film’s director. Bullock filled the role, spiritually passed on by Clooney, quite naturally. She unsurprisingly filled up the screen with charm, class, and her unmistakable physical comedy. Her chemistry with Blanchett felt effortless and the group of women, as a whole, worked together spectacularly. Something that does play particularly well in this film is the queer connotations of Debbie and Lou’s relationship, or partnership as they call it, as the film calls deeper attention to their connection than Bullock’s with her former male paramour. Still, it would have been nice to see Hollywood attempt to create a new legacy of film with this group of talented actresses; but, catch-22, it is also much appreciated to see them together onscreen, no matter what the circumstances.
Verdict: 3 out of 5
Ocean’s 8 can be summed up as a film where bad-ass women deliver up mostly fluff and nostalgia. It definitely isn’t garbage, but it also sits under the two hour mark because of how quickly and tightly each loose end was tied. The film feels clean and polished, features some amazing performances from each of its ensemble, but still unfortunately doesn’t work to elevate the franchise in any way or make these women stand out quite in the way they deserve.