The new “Ocean’s 8,” which features a female-centric cast, is most definitely a part of the same universe as the three films directed by Steven Soderbergh. We know this because Sandra Bullock’s Debbie Ocean acknowledges that George Clooney’s Danny Ocean was her brother (he’s presumed dead). We return to this nod of the family ties over and over and over again as the heist movie unspools.
Directed by Gary Ross, “Ocean’s 8” spends an inordinate amount of time on this lineage, and seemingly does so as a kind of crutch; a way to remind audiences of the good times of “Ocean’s 11” and “Ocean’s 13.” It is a horrible shame as, perhaps, had more time been spent working out the mechanics of the heist in the screenplay from Ross & Olivia Milch, the film could have been worth of the talents it has on screen.
This is not a movie that ought to have to rely on anyone’s memory of anything. “Ocean’s 8” has a stellar cast and watching Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Rihanna, Awkwafina, Sarah Paulson, and Helena Bonham Carter interact with one another is fantastic. A movie where these eight women all play the exact same characters but just sit in a room for two hours and chat could be incredibly exciting. Each and every one is not merely funny (although they are that), but clever in the presentations of their characters. They all feature magnetic personalities, drawing the viewer in. They make one want to watch what comes next.
It is nearly impossible to choose the best pairing of women when they break apart into smaller subsets. Bullock and Blanchett get the bulk of the screen time and are hilarious together, but then no matter whom Awkwafina is talking to, laughs are generated. There are some incredible moments as well between Carter and Kaling. I will avoid going through more of them, but rest assured that just because I’ve left off someone’s name in this paragraph doesn’t mean they aren’t wonderfully good. They are. All eight of them.
Yet, for all the genius in front of the camera, the story these actors are given is incredibly disappointing. The heist that is run, which involves stealing gems off of Hathaway’s character during the Met Gala, is ludicrous. There are so many plot holes that it becomes truly distracting. This problem is only exacerbated when James Corden’s allegedly great insurance inspector arrives to try to piece together the mystery and we’re delivered repeated evidence of the plot holes and shown the utter incompetence of the investigator.
In situations like this, it doesn’t matter how good the cast is, they simply cannot make up for the script’s shortcomings. It all goes beyond the fact that the heist, as presented, is shown to be nonsensical, and gets to some truly disappointing reveals as the film comes to a close.
As wonderful as the cast is, as brilliantly as they swagger through the movie, they are completely underserved by nearly everything else. The costumes are great, and not just at the gala, but it is impossible to walk out of the theater and not wonder what might have been with this film, what this impressive assemblage could have done.
My biggest fear with this movie is that, because it just isn’t very good audiences will not turn out in droves for it. I want to see this group on screen together again. It is impossible to see them work and not want that. So, perhaps, you should go see “Ocean’s 8,” just don’t bother paying any attention to the robbery they’re running. Maybe go and get some popcorn or head to the bathroom as it goes down.
photo credit: Warner Bros.