Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Sarah Paulson, Mindy Kaling and Rihanna sitting in chic outerwear on a New York City subway was the first look we had of the all-female take on the 'Ocean’s' heist films series. Given the title, the star cast and the costumes this Ocean’s 8 should have been another thriller in the series, had it had a script.
The script, that has been co-written by Olivia Milch and director Gary Ross, makes ‘Ocean’s 8’ like a parody of ‘Ocean’s 11,’ with no character development. Watching the film requires a passing knowledge of both the ‘Ocean’s’ films and the famed Met Gala, as the script doesn’t care to explain any of that to the audience. In fact, we don’t even know Cate Blanchett’s character’s name until an hour into the movie. The script is also full of fast-talking con-speak like ‘sometimes just knowing the job will work is enough, you don't have to do it’ and ‘you do not run a job in a job!’ as if coming from motivational robbers. Probably that is why when Debbie says "it's always the attention to detail and the little grace notes that make something sing," you wonder if she might is talking about the movie.
When Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), (Danny’s sister) is out on a parole after more than five years in prison. Despite the contrite tears at her parole hearing, Debbie starts her grifter routine even before she’s even out of the front gate. Watching Debbie scam luxury makeup from Bergdorf’s and four-star hotel rooms with only her air of importance is the most mesmerising sequence in the whole movie.
Debbie reunites with her former partner in crime, Lou (Cate Blanchett), who’s now underhandedly managing a nightclub. She unveils, during a city-scenic meal at Veselka—a plan that she’d cooked up in solitary. What’s the plan? A robbery at the Metropolitan Museum, in the course of the Met Gala, of a famous and rarely seen Cartier necklace called the Toussaint, which features six pounds of diamonds and is worth a hundred and fifty million dollars! From? An actress, Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway), a high-profile guest at the Met Gala, who will be manoeuvred and manipulated into wearing the Toussaint to the event and will be the target of the robbery. And for this, she has put together a team: the designer (Helena Bonham Carter), the hacker (Rihanna), the jeweller (Mindy Kaling), the pickpocket (Awkwafina) and the fence (Sarah Paulson).
Director Gary Ross, (Hunger Games) steers this ship in economical, fast-paced fashion. He keeps his loyalty to the ‘Ocean’s’ trilogy, zipping along while Daniel Pemberton's lounge electronic score keeps things light and breezy. Except for introductions, Ross doesn’t spend time on character development focusing entirely on the heist. It’s frustrating that a film featuring women at the centre of a heist tale doesn’t even bother to write them fully-fleshed out characters. Hathaway as a spoiled actress is given the most to chew on, and she plays it rather amusingly the character of a pampered Hollywood star who's full of herself, desperate for attention and crippled with self-doubt. As a meta send-up of celebrity, Hathaway's performance is the film's example of an inside job.
The film has those grace notes, it won't linger in your memory but it's a good time. It's a heist film that just about pulls off the job, recalling the spirit of the ‘Ocean’s’ series and carrying it forward in a new light. It just about succeeds as a gimmick or a gender-flip of an already established concept but is also as a worthy successor to the franchise. But if ‘Ocean’s 8’ doesn’t thrill, don’t blame the women.