Even though the narrative in Gary Ross’s Ocean’s 8 isn’t cleverly constructed like its predecessors, the cast’s performance and the film’s snappy pace make it an enjoyable experience.
Now, hearing this might disappoint some of those who are reading the review, as people have been hyperfocused on the gender-swapping in Ross’s latest project. It’s hard to forget the vitriol that Ghostbusters director Paul Feig faced and the hate spewed at the cast (especially Leslie Jones). In 2000, when it was announced that a remake of Oceans 11 was on the way, no one lost their mind about George Clooney stepping into a role made famous by Frank Sinatra. However, in 2015 when it was announced that Feig was rebooting Ghostbusters with a female cast, everyone lost their minds.
In 2016, history repeated itself when the cast of Ocean’s 8 was revealed. Why should it matter who is playing these roles? These releases shouldn’t be judged on the gender of the cast member but the merit of the final product. How can these performers forge their own paths if we are always comparing them to what’s already been done?
The next chapter in the Ocean family saga centers around Debbie (Sandra Bullock), Danny’s kid sister, who — following in the footsteps of her brother — is being paroled after serving almost six years in jail on a fraud charge. As she exits the prison and we find out that her brother is allegedly dead, Debbie has really nowhere to go and hardly any money. In the blink of an eye, Ocean manages to rectify the issue by setting herself up for what’s to come.
She quickly connects with partner in crime Lou (Cate Blanchett) and begins to slowly reveal a plan that’s been in the works since the moment Debbie was locked up. They are targeting the Metropolitan Museum of Arts’s annual gala and are looking to steal the legendary Cartier necklace, made out of antique diamonds and worth $150 million. It quickly becomes clear that the job is enormous and they need to bring in six more members to their crew. Enter the characters played by Mindy Kaling, Rihanna, Awkwafina, Sarah Paulson, Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway.
The strength of the film indeed is the chemistry between the cast members. There’s a level of comfort the actors have with one another that keeps the interactions loose. It looks as if they are enjoying the notion of, for once, playing the villains in a film. My standout performer would have to be Hathaway’s portrayal of Daphne Kruger. Kruger is this over-the-top A-list actress whose mood changes on a whim and who begs to be the center of everyone’s universe. One has to think that the Oscar winner had to have based her portrayal on any number of A-list celebrities. Hathaway’s performance indeed is the funniest and most impactful of the whole cast.
Ross maintained a snappy pace throughout the film, not allowing for any lag. Alex DiGerlando’s production design adds a layer of sophistication to the gala. Particularly, the use of a water feature in one wing of the museum wherein the jewels glistened off it resulted in some elaborate lighting. My only concern in Ocean’s 8 stems from the writing. Ross and co-screenwriter Olivia Milch seemed too concerned with making a connection to the original set of films. They even brought two former cast members in for cameos (no, not Clooney or Brad Pitt).
Rather than trying to force a connection, they should have concentrated on digging deeper into Debbie’s motivations. Why does she feel the need to do this job after being locked up? Is it just about revenge? Is she trying to live up to her brother’s reputation? Also, it would have been helpful had Ross injected more of an original angle to this predictable tale. If it hadn’t been for the performances of the ensemble, my opinion of Ocean’s 8 would have been drastically changed.
Overall, the film indeed is entertaining. It’s the type of release that would be perfect for either a date night or girls’ night out. Don’t expect much in the way of a story, but the enjoyment audiences get from the playful banter of this ensemble is what makes it worth seeing this weekend.