Ocean’s 8 is a trifle with an all-star cast of performers who are largely wasted in a script that is a paean to greed and consumerism. The film lacks heart and soul and ends up being a routine heist flick.
The movie begins with Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), the sister of the late Danny Ocean (George Clooney), in prison at a parole hearing, surprisingly with one person. She states that she will not engage in crime if released, which you know must be false or otherwise there would be no plot.
Upon her release, she hooks up with old friend/colleague Lou (Cate Blanchett) and reveals that she needs a total of 7 people to carry off a major theft that Debbie has been planning in her head for the five-plus years she was in prison. The intent is to steal the Touissant diamond necklace owned by Cartier.
This involves getting the celebrity host, Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway), of the Met Gala to wear the necklace to this event and then stealing it from her. So the first person who must be recruited is the now passe fashion designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter) to be the one who dresses Daphne for the Gala. Since Rose is deeply in debt, she takes to crime instantly and agrees to cooperate. Then it is a matter of recruiting Nine Ball (Rihanna), a computer hacker; Constance (Awkwifina) a master pickpocket; Tammy (Sarah Paulson), a fence who triples as a 3-D printer expert and an event organizer; and Amita (Mindy Kaling), a diamond expert.
A side plot involves Debbie’s need for revenge against the man, Claude Becker (Richard Armitage), now a successful artist, who framed her so that she ended up in prison. At first this goal is a secret, which becomes evident to Lou, who warns against this move.
Sandra Bullock, rightly acclaimed for her roles in such films as “Gravity” and “The Blind Side”, is a cipher as Debbie Ocean. She alternates between a Sphinx-like gaze and a cat-who-just-ate-the-canary look. She seems to know a host of criminals, but how or why is never revealed. Her relationships with the other characters, save Claude Becker, are never developed beyond being partners-in-crime. In Becker’s case, she is rightly angry and it is a relief to see her rage displayed so that she appears to be a human with emotions.
You are never sure what the relationship is between Lou and Debbie. Cate Blanchett has nothing to work with in this script and her character is as much of a cipher as is Debbie. The rest of the cast is a collection of quirks and talents. The only two characters who are interesting are Daphne, who reveals subtleties to her person, and James Corden as John Frazier, an irrepressible insurance investigator.
The many flaws with the movie begin with the premise. The plan must be brilliant because: a. it was devised by an Ocean, a family who presumably have criminal brilliance in their genetics; and b. Debbie had five years to go over and over the plan in her head so that any conceivable flaw was detected and accounted for. Both rationales are very flimsy.
The script alternates between explaining how to carry out a facet of the caper and in other instances offering no explanation at all. When problems arise (what happened to the five-year cogitation in prison for flaws in the plan?), the film is more than willing to introduce a deus ex machina at the last minute to solve a problem.
There are so many people involved and so many components to the plan that it seems highly unlikely that more problems would not arise. Conflicts among the personalities in this gang would have added some depth to the characters, but everyone is so enamored of the millions of dollars that each will gain that dissent and failure on their part are quashed.
Yet, if you can suspend all disbelief and not care about character development, the film does have some virtues. There is the glamour of the Met Gala, the beauty of the Met itself, and the celebrity cameos of those attending the Gala. The costumes are spectacular, as one would expect. Toward the end of the movie, there is a nice homage to the acrobatics of “Topkapi.”
Another highlight is the soundtrack. Who knew that Sammy Davis, Jr., recorded “Love is all around,” “The Mary Tyler Moore” theme? “These boots are made for walking” by Nancy Sinatra is very appropriate for an event that celebrates fashion.
In “Ocean’s 11,” casinos were robbed. Casinos do not evoke much sympathy for having their cash stolen. But the Met Gala is a fundraising event and so robbing a charitable cause would be in very bad taste. So the scriptwriters wisely chose to make the target of the theft a priceless diamond necklace, a personal item.
SPOILER ALERT: But at the end of the film, it turns out that Debbie had three plans operating: the original theft, the framing of Becker, and the theft of the European jewelry on display for the Gala. So now the gang has committed art theft, since the European jewelry is part of a museum collection. This changed the tenor of the film as now this gang has deprived the world of the heritage of these jewels.
As a proof that this film glamorizes greed and consumerism, when Debbie reveals to the others that she has conned them by committing this other theft, the fact that each person’s take has substantially increased forgives any animosity for being conned. The end of being enriched justifies all means. The close of the film celebrates how each person can now live the high life of being one of the rich in American society.
Ocean’s 8 is not a complete waste of time, but I would not pay money to go see it in other than a discount theater.
Rating: 2.5 stars
Five years, eight months, 12 days…and counting. That’s how long Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) has been devising the biggest heist of her life. She knows what it’s going to take—a team of the best in their field, starting with her partner-in-crime Lou Miller (Cate Blanchett). Together, they recruit a crew of specialists: jeweler Amita (Mindy Kaling); street con Constance (Awkwafina); expert fence Tammy (Sarah Paulson); hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna); and fashion designer Rose (Helena Bonham Carter). The target is a cool $150 million dollars in diamonds—diamonds that will be around the neck of world-famous actress Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway), who will be center stage at the event of the year, the Met Gala. The plan is rock solid, but everything will need to be flawless if the team is going to get in and get away with the ice. All in plain sight.
Directed by: Gary Ross
Screenplay by: Gary Ross, Olivia Milch