Ocean's 8 (aka Ocean's Eight) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Let’s set the table before digging into this film. Yes, I’m aware of the controversy many seem to be arguing that replacing an all-male cast film with an all-female reboot seems not as tantalizing. And I personally don’t care. Any idea can be done well and the examples of numerous remakes succeeding with cast changes most drastic are numerous. An all-female heist film can work, even with the tacked on marquee value of the Ocean’s franchise. That being said, it’s a very rusty film.
Ocean’s 8 seems to be trying to take itself most seriously with its tale of struggling women aiming to make a mint that it surgically removes the campier and giddier moments. Consider how casual Sandra Bullock seems as Debbie Ocean, the younger sister of Danny Ocean. She is released from prison and puts on a face far to cool for a woman who wants to get back in the game with little drive than the thrill of the heist. She goes about assembling her +1 Seven Samurai brigade to make it happen.
An easy convincer is her previous crime partner, Lou (Cate Blanchett), who is now a nightclub owner. Other players have more of a goal and a stake. Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter) is a fashion designer that is running out of cash. Amita (Mindy Kaling) is a jewelry expert that feels undervalued at her job, in addition to being insulted about not finding the right man by her mother of an employer. Leslie (Rihanna) is a hacker who could use some extra cash. Constance (Awkwafina) is a classic street hustler so she’s always up for the next big score. And Tammy (Sarah Paulson) just wants to get out of the less-refined shady dealings of selling stolen goods out of her home, given her crowded garage.
They all band together to rip off a multi-million dollar Cartier necklace to be worn by stuck-up movie star Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway). They plan to do so during a special gala which means all the women will have to wear many hats in the operation, figurative and literal. And their scheme is quite clever, utilizing everything from bad food to diaper-changing stations to classic misdirection. And, naturally, not everything will go exactly according to plan and the heist becomes more complicated with making quick calls on the fly.
So why does it all feel so clinical? All the actors feel so understated, even for playing roles that sound so much fun on paper. I loved how Awkwafina was able to own Crazy Rich Asians with her supporting roles but it feels like she was put on tranquilizers for playing a slick-talking trickster. Mindy Kaling would seem to have a role that allows her to bite back the biggest but merely nibbles when getting her revenge through robbery. And Anne Hathaway had plenty of room to chomp as a snooty celebrity that I’m surprised she didn’t take as much charge as her character does in the third act.
Perhaps the actors are worried we won’t take them as seriously, trying to present more business-oriented robbers. In a more sophisticated film, perhaps, but a style as distinct as Ocean’s shouldn’t feel so stiff and by-the-numbers. With direction that seems sleek, sexy, clever, and giddy, the enthusiasm feels surprisingly dry for what could’ve been an engaging all-female heist picture.