The current state of the film industry finds studios often playing off the nostalgia of previous movies rather than coming up with new ideas. Therefore, making an all-female version of a previously all-male film counts as innovation. But the mere presence of women is only the first step; the movie actually needs to be good for the gambit to work.
Ocean’s 8 has more going for it than the recent Ghostbusters remake, but it still leaves a little to be desired. Sandra Bullock stars as Debbie Ocean, the sister of George Clooney’s Danny Ocean from the original remake. Freshly paroled, she immediately sets in motion a jewelry heist she’s been planning during her stint in prison.
Just like in Ocean’s 11, Debbie quickly gathers her crew. There’s her partner-in-crime (and maybe more?), Lou (Cate Blanchett); Amita (Mindy Kaling), a master jeweler; Tammy (Sarah Paulson), an expert at selling on the black market; Nine Ball (Rihanna), a hacker; and Constance (Awkwafina), a deft pickpocket. Also along for the ride is Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter), a down-on-her-luck fashion designer whom Debbie and Lou are able to maneuver into position to dress actress Daphne Kruger (Anne Hathaway) for the upcoming Met Ball in New York.
The plan — to steal a $150 million Cartier diamond necklace off of Kruger at the ball — is bold and would seem to require a lot of intricate preparation. Writer/director Gary Ross and co-writer Olivia Milch do a fantastic job of giving each of the main actors a chance to shine, but don’t seem to pay as much attention to getting the story right.
Part of the thrill of any heist movie is knowing the skills of those involved and how they will be put to use. Here, aside from the obvious talents of Nine Ball and Constance and the dressmaking ability of Rose, everybody else seems to be standing around, waiting for something to do. There are vague intimations about what the others will be responsible for, but they are far from clear, even when the heist is set in motion.
Strangely, the plot seems to move both too slowly and too quickly at the same time. The introduction of the characters happens in a blur, and then the movie takes its sweet time getting to the payoff. Reversing those two elements would’ve gone a long way toward making it more successful.
Still, any film with this abundance of acting talent can’t be all bad. Bullock, Blanchett, and Hathaway lead the way, while Kaling, Rihanna, and Awkwafina give the film a great diversity without being mere tokens. Paulson and Bonham Carter are okay, but their characters share a trait of befuddlement that doesn’t seem to serve a storytelling purpose.
Ocean’s 8 is glossy and strives to make its actors look as good as possible at all times. However, it could have used more depth to make us believe its characters were as ingenious as they’re claimed to be.