Ocean’s 8 (2018)

“For once we want to be ignored.”

Fun, fast, and refreshingly feminine, Ocean’s 8 thoroughly entertains while it also diminishes its own originality by relying on what preceded its path. The story is different enough – just barely though – and still the script errs so closely to the plot and the interactions and the structure of 2001’s Ocean’s 11 that the proceedings come across a bit dated, and the leading ladies become dressed in the hand-me-down tunes from a better film with a more unique voice. Don’t get me wrong…I really enjoyed Ocean’s 8. The problem is that everything feels so safe, so easy, and so depleted of palpable tension. Such qualities work both with and against the favor of this finished product.

The entire picture’s relative lack of urgency really allows the beginning of the film to flourish. Recently released from a five-year prison stint after being set-up by her lover, Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) already has the wheels spinning for another theft. Long-time friend Lou (Cate Blanchett) asks her about the details over a diner breakfast. Why resort to mischief and thievery? Debbie says, “because it’s what I’m good at it” with such confidence that we believe in her pilfering purpose. The team assembles. The target – a set of jewels so incredible that Mastercard would call them “priceless” in one of their corny commercials – is designed to be stolen at the annual Met Gala. Everything about Ocean’s 8 works incredibly well on a surface level. I just don’t know why the personalities of these supporting women are treated in the same way. We hardly get to know them.

The big pawn in play is Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway), a celebrity desperate to retain relevancy. She’s the oblivious hit of the operation, her chest draped by the $150 million+ Cartier diamond necklace, and of course the movie has more up its many designer slight sleeves from here. Once the actual heist occurs – as convenient as the other Ocean’s films but far less imaginative in its style – the crusade explodes like a flash-bomb. There’s very little surprise, the ending tactlessly piles on riches without equally escalating the stakes, but most detrimental of all, the film has no villain to root against. Great heist movies give us a developed and true antagonist to self-righteously hate – whether it be an individual or a corporation – so that we can justify the vigilantes who resign to breaking the law. Ocean’s 8 is one of those rare films that feels too short because the characters lack any depth, and at the same time, a tad tiresome because the script is a female-driven copycat of what’s all been done before.

I don’t think that I’ve ever seen a poster quite like the one for Ocean’s 8. Eight feminine names with eight badass female faces. The movie appropriately marketed itself as smart and sexy and infinitely cool, and yet its reliance on the past makes so much of the story feel derivative in spots and unimaginative for massive spats. As is, Ocean’s 8 is about on par with the European influenced Ocean’s 12, is superior to the humdrum Ocean’s 13, and comes nowhere close to the brilliance of Steven Soderbergh’s masterful reinvention of the original Rat Pack caper with Ocean’s 11. Director Gary Ross’ take on the material tends to come across as industrial, whereas Soderbergh felt effortlessly entrepreneurial. Ocean’s 8 has the necessary talent to elevate its meandering script, but like the ladies adorned by sunglasses on the poster, it simply lacks the clear-eyed vision to pull it all off. It’s a romp of a film stifled by the crusty-eyed captivity and the daydreaming creativity of its writers.

“We’re a little more focused on keeping things in than keeping things out.”

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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