Directed by: Gary Ross
Premise: A female-centric follow up to the Ocean’s Eleven films. Con artist Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) is released from prison and recruits a team to pull off a daring heist at the annual Met Gala.
What Works: Ocean’s Eight is easily better than either of the direct sequels to 2001’s Ocean’s Eleven. In its best moments Ocean’s Eight recaptures what worked about the original film, namely its playful attitude. The script is witty and the filmmaking has a light touch. The movie picks an excellent location for the heist; the Ocean’s films are largely exercises in style and the Met Gala provides an appropriate backdrop for this feminine take on the Ocean’s franchise. Like the 2001 film, Ocean’s Eight succeeds largely because of its cast. The movie has an exceptional collection of actresses including Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Rhianna, Helena Bonham Carter, and Awkwafina. These women are capable of both comedy and drama and they pull off both in such a way that the humor and the suspense enhance one another instead of cancelling each other out. The most outstanding performance of Ocean’s Eight is provided by Anne Hathaway as a vapid Hollywood starlet who unwittingly becomes a tool of the heist. Hathaway isn’t afraid to look ridiculous and she has many of the best moments in this film.
What Doesn’t: Ocean’s Eight isn’t just a female spin on the 2001 movie. It’s a virtual remake. The new film follows the basic story structure of its progenitor and repeats most of the familiar beats but does them less well. The narrative never picks up steam. Perhaps due to its derivative story, Ocean’s Eight feels as though it is going through the motions. It also lacks an interesting villain. Part of the pleasure of other Ocean’s films was the way Danny Ocean and his crew got one over on a dastardly character. In Ocean’s Eight the heist is a way of getting back at the ex-boyfriend (Richard Armitage) who set up Debbie Ocean and sent her to jail. The film lacks any delight in its revenge subplot. The moviemakers really trip themselves up in the ending. The film has several conclusions and goes on and on, introducing some late twists that are contrived and stupid. Ocean’s Eight also wastes some of its talented cast. The film spends the majority of its time with Bullock and Blanchett. That makes sense since they are the biggest movie stars and they are cast in the equivalent roles played by George Clooney and Brad Pitt in the 2001 film. However, the focus on the leads comes at the cost of the rest of the cast. The supporting characters are the most interesting people in this movie, namely a jeweler played by Mindy Kaling and a pickpocket played by Awkwafina. They aren’t given much to do and the filmmakers don’t give these characters the rewarding subplots and memorable banter that worked so well in the original film.
Bottom Line: Ocean’s Eight works well enough as lighthearted popcorn entertainment. But the film falls short of its potential and largely fails its talented cast. Ocean’s Eight superficially resembles the 2001 picture but it lacks the details that made that film so much better.
Episode: #704 (June 24, 2018)