Director: Gary Ross
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Awkwafina, Sarah Paulson, Richard Armitage, James Corden
First, let’s agree that it’s an absolute head-rush to see eight dynamic women in one film. I got happy watching Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett, as con-artists Debbie and Lou, just having a meal together. And then there’s Anne Hathaway, funny and drop-dead gorgeous, as the famous, self-involved actress Daphne; Mindy Kaling as the diamond expert Amita; Helena Bonham Carter as the eccentric designer Rose; Rihanna as the hacker Nine Ball; Sarah Paulson as the bored housewife Tammy; and Awkwafina as the brilliant pickpocket Constance. These characters, coming together to pull off an elaborate heist is exactly the sort of delicious, diverting entertainment that the world needs right now. Right?
Sort of. Because director Gary Ross, who has also co-written the story with Olivia Milch, never manages to make the film more than the sum of its parts. Ocean’s 8 reworks the popular heist franchise as an all woman project – the men are bumbling and mostly incidental – only James Corden makes an impression. It’s an exciting idea matched with equally exciting actors but the end result is unsatisfying because the writing is lazy. All we want from the Oceans franchise is a fun fantasy – good-looking people playing cool criminals and pulling off heists without breaking a sweat. The heists don’t need to be layered or complicated but we do have to buy into it.
Here, the plan is to rob a 6 pound, 150-million-dollar necklace from Daphne who is wearing it at the MET Gala. Debbie, who is Danny Ocean’s sister, has been plotting this crime for five years while she was in prison. When she says this, we anticipate a high-wire act. But the script makes the crime ridiculously easy – any hurdles that come up are promptly solved. And the gang even manages to do a job within a job – there is an unnecessary and over-stretched sub-plot about Debbie’s ex-boyfriend who landed her in jail.
But even this would have been palatable if the characters were better written. I’m absolutely okay to watch these women just hang together. But apart from Hathaway and Bullock, the rest don’t get any memorable lines. Mindy plays the Indian girl in the stereotypical situation of being berated because she isn’t married. And even the mighty Cate Blanchett and Rihanna have barely anything to do.
There are countless films devoted to male criminals being cool and there is a great pleasure in seeing women own the swagger of these parts. I also enjoyed the clothes and jewels and dizzying glamour – the likes of Anna Wintour, Serena Williams, Heidi Klum and Katie Holmes do cameos. But Ocean’s 8 just doesn’t pop enough. There are a few fun moments – in one scene, Constance sees a photo of Danny – George Clooney – and tells Debbie that her brother’s hot. But there isn’t enough camaraderie or charm or lightness of being.
You remember that electric first poster for Ocean’s 8? It came with the memorable tag line – Every Con has its Pros. This film barely delivers on the promise of that.