The Ocean’s franchise is the second after Ghostbusters to undergo a gender-swap. Unfortunate as it may be, this brought a certain amount of pressure for these criminal women to live up to the antics of their male predecessors.
It is a big achievement that this new direction feels so natural. Ocean’s 8 leaves you feeling that this awe-inspiring line up always needed to be stealing $150 million worth of diamonds from the Met Gala. However, there is also a feeling that this should have been a film slightly more worthy of their talents.
The opening sees Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), sister of the now apparently deceased Danny (George Clooney in the originals), pulling off a superbly convincing appeal for parole and striding into New York City after sitting in prison for 5 years, 8 months and 12 days. She reunites with her partner Lou, whom Cate Blanchett plays as the coolest motorbike-riding club owner to grace the big screen.
Assisted by fashion designer Rose (Helena Bonham-Carter), jewellery designer Amita (Mindy Kaling), sassy hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna), cheeky pick-pocket Constance (Awkwafina) and goods hijacker-turned-suburban mom Tammy (Sarah Paulson), they target a legendary diamond necklace which will find its way to the neck of snobbish star Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) during the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Annual Gala.
The job itself is satisfyingly mind-boggling, while the fashion and set-pieces at the Gala are stunningly sumptuous and involve an impressive dose of walking-down-steep-stairs-in-heels without-looking-at-your-feet. The most essential cog in the machine, however, are the stars.
Every addition to the group grabs the screen with such entertaining qualities that it is a shame the quick pacing leaves little room to see any deeper interactions. One of the best laughs comes from Constance trying to introduce Amita to the joys of tinder, and there are other hints at a well of comedy which remains frustratingly untapped.
Hathaway steals every scene with her perfectly placed princess pouts; an exacting wink at her own media-produced Hollywood persona. On the other hand Blanchett and Paulson are grossly underused as Tammy and Lou are aching for a share of the decent dialogue.
The stars’ chemistry and cool has to do the heavy lifting. The big job evolves in pretty standard fashion and no enemy ever really emerges to challenge them, detracting from the pay-off. As is often the case in this genre, the most gratifying part is watching the preparation fall into place and when it comes to the heist itself, it lacks the twists and tension to leave the audience properly gobsmacked.
Still, Ocean’s 8 turns out to be 110 minutes of gratifying crime caper, even if it does neglect its greatest asset, the main characters. In preparation for the big night Debbie reminds the group that “Somewhere out there, there’s an 8-year-old girl dreaming of becoming a criminal. You’re doing this for her.” Despite a tendency towards style over substance, it seems likely that young girls will be starting to wear Cate Blanchett-esque eyeliner and practise their sleight of hand after watching these women create role models who are so bad, that they’re good.
Image Credit: Movie DB.