The George Clooney-led ensemble Ocean’s movies came out around a time that I didn’t really appreciate them. Upon revisiting them a few months ago through Netflix earlier this year, I finally figured out the hype.
Sandra Bullock’s grand heist film might not measure up to the predecessors, but the summer movie season is perfect for this starry but lightweight caper.
This review will be spoiler-free.
Eleven years after the Ocean’s trilogy’s last heist, Sandra Bullock stars as Debbie Ocean, the incarcerated sister of George Clooney’s Danny Ocean. Upon her release after a five-year stint, she gathers a crew of women to pull off an near impossible heist at New York City’s yearly Met Gala that the female Ocean has been planning while in prison.
The main cast of the film is a who’s-who of female talent. Cate Blanchett plays Lou, the Pitt to Bullock’s Clooney, an old partner in petty crime. After their reunion, Helena Bonham Carter (who I thought would be the odd one out of the whole cast) joined in as Rose, a faded Irish clothes designer that’s desperate for career redemption, Rihanna’s joint-smoking hacker Nine Ball brings the tech support and Awkwafina’s street hustler Constance provides the millennial wisdom that the crew needs from time to time. Mindy Kaling’s Amita is the diamond expert and bored housewife Tammy (Sarah Paulson) acts as the best moral compass example the crew needs. All together, the cast plays well off each other but their chemistry wasn’t the same as Danny’s Ocean’s team when it came to comedy. Anne Hathaway was stylish and put on a solid performance as the air-headed celebrity and target for the team.
Director Gary Ross kept the film moving along briskly so there would be little down time, leaving that only for when the team is being formed. From there, everything in the frame gleams and shimmers: from Brooklyn’s waterfront to the jewels and dresses. The dazzling shots, especially during the Met Gala as we see all the celebrities, such as Serena Williams and Katie Holmes, who attend the fashion event get into each shot possible. Out of all the performances, Hathaway’s as a narcissistic, actressy model was a highlight along with the street smart Awkwafina. I’ll admit to waiting for a Clooney cameo, but you can guess that some of the old crew did make an appearance (how could they not?).
My main problem is that the plot seemed too formulaic, coasting for the most part when it should have been crackling with energy. The energy that Soderbergh’s Ocean’s trilogy had seems to be set aside here for focus on the glossy scene-setting and the mechanics of the heist. Despite the rare character moments, which felt like a tease to how much more fuller the movie could have been about friendship and female dynamics. While I’m happy to see that an all-female team up is staring in a big-budget film, this could have been executed better with the storyline. Instead, Ocean’s 8 plays its thieving ladies straight, relying on their breezy and felonious actions.
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