Almost two decades after Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven reinvigorated the American heist, Ocean’s 8 has given the genre a female facelift. It’s not the first franchise reboot to feature a new all–women cast; the 2016 Ghostbusters faced backlash from critics and concerned misogynists alike, even before its release. Regardless, both films mark a shift towards better representation on the big screen—think: Wonder Woman, Lady Bird, The Handmaid’s Tale, etc.
“Do not run a job within a job” is the warning Lou (Cate Blanchett), the cool and collected bar owner, gives to her ride–or–die Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock). One must keep a firmly divided work–life balance in this industry—no ulterior motives, no personal agendas. Debbie reassures Lou that her intentions are transparent. Her plan? Bulletproof. After all, she’s spent the past five years in prison, cooking up a plot of diamonds and big money. There’s no better place to brainstorm than solitary.
Alongside Blanchett and Bullock is a similar assortment of high celebrity. Rihanna rocks it as hacker Nine Ball, Youtuber Awkwafina hustles as pickpocket Constance, Sarah Paulson is the felon–turned–suburban–mom Tammy, Mindy Kaling plays a jeweler named Amita, and Helena Bonham Carter fidgets in her role as fitful Rose Weil, a fashion designer who fears she’s past her creative prime. Together, they’ll steal the Toussaint, a $150–million Cartier necklace, right off the pampered décolletage of actress Daphne Kluger, whose every self–obsessed sigh and side–eye Anne Hathaway executes perfectly.
There are big bucks to be made from this scheme, granted it unravels as planned. And maybe there is a little revenge. Crime runs in Debbie’s blood; she’s sister to none only than the infamous Danny Ocean (George Clooney), whose legacy the film hints at peripherally. When asked why she’s doing this at all, Debbie says simply: “Because it’s what I’m good at.”
She’s right—to an extent. The heist is cool, but doesn’t blow minds like Ocean’s Eleven. Tension simmers but fails to reach full boil. Some of the characters feel disingenuously written; Daphne Kluger, in particular, is effective (if not a tad overboard) as comic relief. But when the movie tries to present her as a fully–formed character, her development is abrupt, her motivations half–hearted.
That’s not to say the movie isn’t fun. It’s two hours of a stacked cast and heaps of glitz (the heist takes place at the Met Gala, after all). Word on the street—or, more accurately, word according to the friend I watched the movie with—is that Ocean’s 8 doesn’t quite measure up to Ocean’s Eleven, but ranks higher than Ocean’s Twelve or Ocean’s Thirteen. Sometimes the curveballs feel a bit more like slow pitches, but it’s a ride from beginning to end.