Starring Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Rihanna, Sarah Paulson, Mindy Kaling, Awkwafina
The next time you are in your local theater, stop, take a look around. Pay attention to the posters that are currently displayed and how nearly every one of them are sequels, prequels, reincarnations or re-boots. Director Gary Ross (The Hunger Games, Seabiscuit) has always been a dependable director, turning the usual into the unexpected. Oceans 8 is a gender-flip reboot of a franchise that was already a remake. While the cast here is extraordinary, who doesn’t want to see Oscar winning actresses Bullock, Blanchett and Hathaway in the same movie, the writing and material doesn’t serve the talent of these actors. Steven Soderberg’s Oceans 11 – 13 were filled with snark, wit and clever banter. Oceans 8 isn’t engaging and none of the characters get distinct personalities outside their wardrobe.
Five years in prison has given Debbie Ocean (Bullock) a lot of time to plan the perfect jewelry heist. Sister of infamous criminal Danny Ocean, Debbie got caught doing something she never intends to do again, trust a man. She can’t pull off her elaborate Met Gala caper alone, reteaming with best friend Lou (Blanchett) as they recruit someone for each particular role. “A ‘him’ gets noticed, a ‘her’ gets ignored. Once we want to be ignored,” Debbie explains her reason for recruiting only women. Daphne Kluger (Hathaway) is the famous actress and belle of the ball for the gala. What she wears to the event is intricate to Debbie’s plan, and getting her to do what they need will take a team of experts and a lot of patience.
I would rather see eight original films starring these actresses, than have them all thrown into one forgettable remake.
Oceans 8 feels like a knee jerk reaction to what’s been happening in Hollywood. Remake popular franchises with an all-female cast. The problem with this notion is two- fold. I didn’t want an all-male Oceans film, nor do I want an all-female. It should be mixed, equality, that’s the entire argument in the first place. The more substantial issue; I would rather see eight original films starring these actresses, than have them all thrown into one forgettable remake. Good intentions are evident, Clooney, Soderberg producing and a few of the previous members popping up in cameos. The only actor playing a role outside of a stereotype is Hathaway. While Carter (Cinderella) is a hoot to watch, she is doing the same kooky character she always plays. Bullock’s best work happens when she works outside her comfort zone. Here, she’s simply playing herself.
The script is completely focused on plot and the caper rather than allowing these actors to become characters we enjoy. The heist plays out with the twists you’ve come to expect from this franchise and similar robbery films. In the third act, Debbie gives an unenthusiastic speech, “we have worked so hard to get to this point”. Yet that effort she talks about doesn’t come across on screen, nor does any depth to these women’s characters. I still can’t tell you what Lou’s profession was or why she liked motorcycles so much, or even how and why she and Debbie are such good friends. It’s Bullock’s film, she’s got the most reputable box office clout, but she’s playing pissed-off Bullock and doesn’t bring anything note worthy to Debbie whose most memorable trait is being Danny’s sister.
Despite the talent involved, 8 doesn’t have the energy or creativity of the previous Oceans.