Things it would be enjoyable to watch the cast of Ocean’s 8 do:
- Steal stuff in a flimsy heist flick like they do here
- Play board games and drink
- Discuss current sociopolitical events
- Actually run the entire country
- Literally anything else they feel like doing
All of the Ocean’s movies have been sly, stylish bits of gossamer fun, but all have also suffered from the same singular problem: not having Cate Blanchett in full glam-rock cosplay. Ocean’s 8 addresses this painful oversight while delivering the type of escapist criminal shenanigans previously reserved only for penis-havers. Somewhat insanely, the film feels hesitant to fully trust its near-holy cast; this doesn’t truly stop them so much as it somewhat prevents the flick from becoming the perfect raucous romp it should have been.
In a delicious bit of thematic inversion, the criminal mastermind of the previous Ocean’s installments is unceremoniously fridged. Having just been released from prison, his sister, Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), shakes a mental martini at his memory and then immediately goes full Pink Panther. Her BFF, Lou (Cate Blanchett), helps recruit a crew to boost diamonds that will be worn by famous pretty person Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) at the Met Gala. The gang of thieves includes a washed-up designer (Helena Bonham Carter), a computer sorceress (Rhianna), a gemstone expert (Mindy Kaling), a conwoman-turned-soccer-mom (Sarah Paulson) and a pickpocket (Awkwafina).
The script from director Gary Ross and Olivia Milch is surprisingly stifling, as though audiences paid their money to see a discussion about cubic zirconium 3D-printing instead of letting Bullock and Blanchett mess with Bonham Carter the way that George Clooney and Brad Pitt teased on Matt Damon in the previous Ocean’s flicks. That’s really the only complaint to be had: the script, direction, editing or some nefarious combination never let the ladies have the space to fully enjoy themselves onscreen. They are allowed but toothless coy smiles, and not one visible iota of joy more. It’s as though Ross feared that by showing these incredible actresses giggling their way through like the boys of the other Ocean’s installments did, disbelief would unsuspend and audiences would scream “Hey, ladies can’t steal stuff and have fun!”
To be clear, Ocean’s 8 is still a blast to watch. Hathaway, given the only self-aware role, gleefully doles out a performance specifically attuned for Hatha-haters. Bonham Carter reminds everyone that she is abjectly divine when given liberation from the shackles of Tim Burton’s monotone direction. Blanchett has too little to do but still geysers out coolness, and Bullock is a solid but too solemn anchor who ideally should be allowed to more fully cut loose in the sequels.
And there should be sequels. Plural. Give us one of these movies every other summer until this cast has stolen every bit of joy there is to plunder from the franchise. To watch Ocean’s 8 is to want more of everything and everyone involved.
Grade = A-