Ocean’s Eight (2018)
★★ / ★★★★
If the goal of heist comedy “Ocean’s Eight” is to jumpstart a new trilogy with a female-centric cast, as opposed to a male-centric cast of its three predecessors, then the attempt is unimpressive for the most part. In fact, it comes across uncommitted. While there are familiar elements like a highly charismatic cast, a script that exudes effortless cool, an ambitious heist, and a few left turns during the third act, there is an important ingredient that the picture is missing: Not once do we believe that the crew is close—so close that, if a member were to get caught, no one would be thrown under the bus.
While the previous trilogy need not provide character development because the element of a strong bond is established almost immediately, an argument can be made that having it front and center in this case would have separated this installment from the previous entries. Especially curious is Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), having just released from prison after serving five years, being relegated to the side once the rest of the crew (Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter) have been put together.
This is a miscalculation on two fronts. First, it is paramount that the viewers are given a thorough understanding of why Debbie is worth following in this film and possibly onwards. It is not enough that she is the sister of Danny Ocean (played by George Clooney since “Ocean’s Eleven”) and that she came up with the daring idea of stealing diamonds worth around a hundred fifty million during a posh event at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Putting her on the sidelines and allowing the other characters to shine brighter do not contribute in strengthening the bond between Debbie and the viewer.
Second, her relationship with Lou (Cate Blanchett) is never explored. They are supposed to be best friends but we are never provided an appreciation of the complexities in their relationship. They have one disagreement in the film and it comes across as forced, disingenuous, out of place. How can we buy into their clash when we only know how they are together on a superficial level? Like Debbie, Lou is also benched for the majority of the picture. I wished to know this woman who dresses masculine and rides her bike everywhere. It is the correct decision to cast Bullock and Blanchett in their respective roles, but their characters are not given the required substance in order for the material to command a level of gravity. What is the point of hiring high-caliber performers?
The heist is not that ingenious—which I did not have a problem with. It is meant to be breezy, occasionally silly, and alluring. Notice how the camera glides over the extremely detailed dresses, how the jewels shine a certain way depending on how the light hits them, the atmosphere of an “elite-only” party where cameos abound. The intention is pure escapism and there is nothing wrong with that.
It is apparent that the performers are having a ball with their roles. The standout is Anne Hathaway who plays an actress who will wear the diamonds to be purloined. One gets the impression that she is aware of the adjectives that people use to describe her online and so she decides to use some of the pointed words by creating a character that is, at the very least, annoying… but you cannot take your eyes off her. Her character is the most fun to watch. If only the rest of the film were as creative or inspired.