FILM REVIEW – OCEAN’S 8. With Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Rihanna. Written by Gary Ross & Olivia Milch. Directed by Gary Ross. Rated PG-13 for language, drug use, and some suggestive content. 110 minutes.
OCEAN’S 8 isn’t really a sequel to the George Clooney “Ocean’s 11” series, but it was made for much the same reason. It has become a franchise with a recognizable name and thus will be pre-sold to a large number of moviegoers (and foreign markets). It takes the formula – a bunch of glamorous stars playing characters involved in a complicated heist – and says, “What if we did it will all women instead?”
So, meet Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), sister of the late Danny Ocean, who gets out of prison and meets up with Lou (Cate Blanchett) with plans to infiltrate a gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art where celebrity Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) will be wearing a borrowed necklace worth $150 million dollars. This will involve them bringing in designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter) to make sure the necklace gets worn.
Soon the operation includes Amita (Mindy Kaling), Nine Ball (Rihanna), Penelope (Elle Fanning), Tammy (Sarah Paulson), and Constance (Awkwafina). Each will have a particular role to play in the heist, but likewise, each has a role to play in the marketing campaign for the movie, appealing to different demographics. Suffice to say they’re all beautiful and talented stars (just like most of the men in the earlier films), and under the direction of Gary Ross (who co-wrote the script), things move smoothly.
If that seems like it’s damning with faint praise, it is. The heist is entertainingly complex, several actors appear in featured cameos (including Elliot Gould from the Clooney movies), and there are some mildly amusing twists along the way. The problem is that it’s all on the surface and no one will be accused of acting. They’re playing personalities and are skilled enough that no one will accuse any of the cast of walking through their roles, but when Cate Blanchett – one of the finest actresses working today – is simply another pretty face playing at being a criminal, it seems a bit of a waste. It’s a matter of taste, but this doesn’t reach the level of the “Fast and Furious” movies, which does much the same thing with a collection of action stars. At least those films have some amazing chases.
That’s not to say “Ocean’s 8” is without its charms. Hathaway seems to be having fun playing a bit against type – she’s not the sweet young thing here. It’s also interesting that this is the second movie of the summer season featuring an all-star female cast, following the sex comedy “Book Club.” And perhaps that’s what makes the film noteworthy. It’s a serviceable comedy/heist movie, but that makes it an entry in a genre where women’s roles are few and far between, often relegated to the “love interest.” Here the women are front and center. It may not make “Ocean’s 8” a cinema classic, but if the film is a hit it may open the door for even more films with strong female characters in the future.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Time on My Hands: My Misadventures in Time Travel. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.