Ocean's 8 is an enjoyable all-female spin on an Ocean's movie, but with a cast this stellar you're left wanting more
Recreating the set-up of Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s films but lacking their slick style, Hunger Games director Gary Ross helms this gender-swap reboot that is never less than enjoyable thanks to stellar performances from its female cast. Ocean’s 8 shows Hollywood’s glass-ceiling is cracking, but begs the question – could this have been better achieved with an original story?
Danny Ocean is dead. Step forward Danny’s younger, equally crooked sister Debbie (Sandra Bullock). After being set-up by her no-good ex, art dealer Claude Becker (Richard Armitage), she's just been released after a five-year stint in the slammer. Hours out of prison, she reunites with her former partner in crime Lou (Cate Blanchett) and gathers together a sisterhood of scoundrels – played by Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, Awkwafina, Sarah Paulson, and Helena Bonham Carter – to pull off an elaborate heist. The plan? To steal an antique Cartier necklace worth $150 million during New York’s most exclusive event, the Met Gala, from the elegant neck of actress Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway).
The film’s greatest success hangs on fourth wall-breaking one-liners critiquing the treatment of women in Hollywood. Nothing goes unscathed, including celebrity culture and the portrayal of women in the media – journalists get a minor roasting, bloggers worse. This critique crescendos with a scene where Lou suggests a male hustler who could join the team. Debbie rebuffs her with: “I don’t want a him. A him gets noticed, a her gets ignored, and, for once, we want to be ignored.” It’s a potent line, smartly delivered.
The film's East Coast setting is also a smart choice. Bullock and co take the subway and plot their scheme in an abandoned pool hall. This echoes the film's message that unlike their male counterparts that swaggered around the neon lights and up-market hotels of Las Vegas in tuxes, these women’s antics are sidelined to the margins, and they have to hustle twice as hard for what is a given for men (criminal or not).
Sadly, the structure and plotting of the film proves to be a disservice to its message. The heist scenes are functional, lacking the pizzazz and slick high-jinks of Soderbergh’s original. Then, disappointingly, the film’s pacing falls apart when James Corden enters the fray as a bumbling insurance investigator. This is then made all the worse due to the inserting of a revenge plot involving Debbie’s ex-boyfriend, undermining the message of female empowerment.
Ocean’s 8 does have an ace up its sleeve in the form of Anne Hathaway, who steals the film as the petulant but irritatingly charming Kluger. Her character is described as having “eyes like Bambi” and “the best neck in the business”, and you can’t help but feel this a reference to the meta-joke of Ocean’s Twelve, in which Julia Roberts’ character posed as Julia Roberts. Hathaway is clearly having fun alluding to her own career, and there’s even a touch of her Selina Kyle from Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises in here. Hathaway makes her point with grace and elegance: she’s more than a pretty neck.
The film’s message is only as good as its delivery, however. The so-so heist and hop-scotch plotting lacks polish. There's also that nagging question – why not give a cast of this calibre a film that allows them to shine without the male baggage? Perhaps this is just the growing pains of an industry waking up to its misogyny, and gender-swap reboots are the best we can hope for just now, but more exciting is to imagine the films this cast will be making next, together or alone.
Released by Warner Bros