Bullock’s Gaggle of Fashionably Fabulous Gals Clothe Ocean’s Eight in Fun
The question one must ask when reviewing Ocean’s Eight is just how much to say about the film in order to not inadvertently give away any of its secrets. Not so much because the twists and turns hiding inside director Gary Ross (Pleasantville, The Hunger Games) and Olivia Milch’s (Dude) clever little screenplay are difficult to figure out (sadly most of them are not) but more because seeing them come to life on their own without any sort of foreknowledge is honestly kind of sensational, there’s so much to love here. A continuation in spirit of the three all-star heist films director Steven Soderbergh and star George Clooney took pleasure in creating back in the early-to-mid 2000’s, this female-driven variation is an enjoyable change of pace that makes its own stiletto-heeled mark upon the genre. It’s a heck of a lot of fun, and spelling things out any more than that feels slightly like overkill.
Fresh out of spending five years in prison, Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) heads to New York and quickly meets up with best friend and former partner Lou (Cate Blanchett). She already has a plan for a heist, one that will net countless millions if they are able to pull it off. Debbie wants to rob Cartier of a priceless, six-pound diamond necklace, and in order to get access to it they’re going to surreptitiously convince them to loan the piece to international movie star Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) so she can wear it to the annual Met Gala.
To assist them the pair enlist the help of fashion designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter), diamond merchant Amita (Mindy Kaling), computer hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna), pickpocket Constance (Awkwafina) and retired fence and current suburban housewife and mother Tammy (Sarah Paulson). Debbie also procures the unknowing aid of a former boyfriend, well-known New York art gallery owner Claude Becker (Richard Armitage), figuring no one in the crew will hold it against her if she adds an asterisk to the job that could earn her some richly deserved revenge against a smarmy bastard who played a major role in sending her to prison half-a-decade ago.
While not nearly as well put together as either of Soderbergh/Clooney’s Ocean’s Eleven and Ocean’s Thirteen were, Ross and Milch have nonetheless managed to craft a reasonably engaging little heist comedy that’s overflowing energetic joy. The well-dressed cast is fully engaged, all of them slipping into their respective roles with vivacious and confident ease. Bullock turns out to be an instantly believable, and surprisingly lovable, ringleader and mastermind to this eclectic crew of thieves, and I loved that she didn’t just try to emulate Clooney and instead brought her own effervescent spark that feels unique to her and to this character and nothing else after that. Blanchett is almost too cool, too perfect as her best friend, the dynamic actress slipping inside Lou’s chicly tough, yet decidedly feminine skin so effortlessly I couldn’t take my eyes off of her each time she strut into a scene.
The rest of the cast has their respective moments, Bonham Carter, Rihanna and Paulson in particular. But it is Hathaway who comes closest to absconding with the entire picture right out from underneath her costars, the actress delivering a comedic performance that’s right up there with some of the best work of her career. Her Daphne is a walking self-deluded egotistical Hollywood stereotype come to dazzling, scene-stealing life, and watching the actress give her life with such fearless abandon is frankly delightful. But Hathaway has more cards to play than are initially apparent, and when the opportunity arises for her to flip the script and do something unexpected the Les Misérables Oscar-winner makes sure to make the most of it. It’s a flabbergasting turn of unbridled excellence that had me giggling in gleeful appreciation, and in some ways I almost wish the character could have been involved in all of this subterfuge more than she actually is.
There isn’t a lot of tension, and I can’t say there was ever a point I ever thought Debbie or any of her crew were in any danger of being caught. This makes the third act appearance of a dogged insurance investigator, played with noticeable gusto by James Corden, slightly underwhelming, while an additional reveal near the end, as cute as it might have been, really only exists to remind us all that this film does indeed remain linked to the three other male-dominated ones that came before it. I also can’t say this is going to stick with me like Ocean’s Eleven has, and other than wanting someone to please gift me every single outfit Bullock, Blanchett, Hathaway and Paulson wear (especially Blanchett’s) in the movie the ins and outs of many of the particular plot strands themselves have already started to evaporate from my memory not 24-hours after my press screening.
Not that it matters. Ocean’s Eight stole my heart, and the theft of it has me grinning ear-to-ear. If this is the start to a new continuation of the franchise, and if the casts from the previous ones were to start intermingling with the one from this latest endeavor, I think my excitement level for such a thing might leap into the stratosphere never to come back down to earth. Bullock, Blanchett and the rest of these gals do a bang-up job making away with the goods, the enjoyment factor so high it almost feels criminal to have had as much fun watching this little trifle of a comedic heist thriller as I ultimately did.
Film Rating: 3 (out of 4)