I purposely didn’t read a slew of Ocean’s 8 (Warner Bros., 6.8) reviews before seeing it Wednesday night. (All the way out in Burbank, by the way.) I wanted to just go in clean and ready for whatever. And honestly? It doesn’t deliver much but it’s not that bad.
This being a chick flick of sorts, I was afraid (and I know how sexist this sounds) that it might lean too much on emotional content. Hugging, crying, hurting…that line of country. But to my profound surprise it doesn’t get into emotional stuff at all. It’s like “emotion who?” It deals almost nothing but dry, droll, mid-tempo cards. And I kind of liked that. Was I knocked out? No, but I felt oddly placated.
The strongest emotional current in Ocean’s 8 is one of revenge on the part of Sandra Bullock‘s Debbie Ocean, a great-looking, zero-drama 40something with an almost icy composure. The revenge is directed at a former male colleague who did an uncool thing, resulting in considerable discomfort for Debbie, and so he must be paid back. But beyond this issue, Ocean’s 8 is almost purely a technical or logistical exercise film.
It’s about Bullock commanding a team of six ultra-confident, super-poised women with no hangups or behavioral issues of any kind (Cate Blanchett‘s Lou, Rihanna‘s Nine Ball, Sarah Paulson‘s Tammy, Mindy Kaling‘s Amita, Awkwafina‘s Constance, Helena Bonham Carter‘s Daphne). The goal is to steal a $150 million, six-pound Toussaint diamond necklace. The job will happen during the annual Met Gala, and the mark will be Anne Hathaway‘s Daphne Kruger, a flush, big-time celebrity.
Ocean’s 8 is also about wallowing in wealth and fashion porn in midtown Manhattan, and about the importance of always keeping your cool and being one or two steps ahead of the other guy. I half-enjoyed the fact that the team looks great, and that their makeup and hair are perfect in every scene. Hell, everyone looks good. Even the late-arriving James Corden, playing an insurance investigator, has been buffed to the max.
That wasn’t a typo about Bullock having six partners for a total of seven. They only become a crew of eight in the third act, and that’s after the job has already been pulled.
Director and co-writer Gary Ross, co-scenarist Olivia Milch and producer Steven Soderbergh knew exactly what they wanted to do, which was to stay on a mellow and even keel. And so Ocean’s 8 just glides along in second or third gear for the most part. Nothing crazy happens, and certainly nothing dark or startling (like, for example, a 2018 equivalent of Richard Conte dying of a heart attack on the Las Vegas strip in the original 1960 Ocean’s 11) or ominous or even a bit sad. It doesn’t get into drama at all. Start to finish, the whole thing is cool, calm and collected. It’s not even that complex or tangled. You can actually follow what’s going on.
But after a while you start asking yourself, “Is this movie going to dip into the occasionally uncertain or threatening aspects of planning a big heist, at least to some extent? Don’t people pay to see this kind of film to enjoy a little suspense?”
Stuff always goes wrong with the best laid plans. Mickey Rourke in Body Heat: “There are 50 ways you can fuck up [in the committing of a crime] and if you can think of 35 of them, you’re a genius.” But very little interferes with the big necklace-stealing scheme. On one level it feels good to hang with a crew that won’t get busted or even seriously hassled. On another level it’s like “really?”
The only truly great moment happens when a somewhat prissy Cartier official (Richard Robichaux) inspects a duplicate of the Toussaint necklace and realizes what’s happened. His reactions are priceless. They reminded me of a scene in William Wyler‘s How To Steal A Million when a museum security guard (Jacques Marin) realizes that a precious sculpture has been stolen. He’s so shocked he can’t say anything — he can only gasp and wheeze.
There are three or four good laugh lines that I won’t spoil. Okay, I’ll spoil one. Bullock is standing in front of the tomb of her late brother, Danny Ocean, with whom she had issues. She mutters, “You’d better be in there.” Corden also has a couple of great lines. Scenes, actually.
The best above-the-line performance is given by Hathaway, who seems to be making fun of her image to some extent.
There’s no big villain in Ocean’s 8. Nobody threatening to kill the gang or turn them all in a la Andy Garcia or Ceasar Romero in the 1960 film.
So Ocean’s 8 is no Ocean’s Eleven, no Topkapi, no Rififi, no Thomas Crown Affair, no Bank Job, no Italian Job, no The Sting, no Asphalt Jungle. The heist film that it most resembles, for me, is Wyler’s above-mentioned 1966 release. Ocean’s 8 and How To Steal A Million are dissimilar in many ways, but they both assure the viewer early on that nothing too heavy will happen, and that no one (not even a security guard) will drop dead of a heart attack or even endure a stomach ache.