Remember comedian John Mulaney’s now infamous quip that an all-woman “Ocean’s” reboot wouldn’t work because two women would sneak off to smack talk the others? Well, the A-list all-woman cast of “Ocean’s 8” just stomped eight glitzy, razor-sharp stiletto heels into that tired joke’s neck. And then they sped off to the Met Gala to celebrate their sisterhood with martinis and diamonds (with no help at all from director Gary Ross, whose too-safe cinematographic choices dampened the film’s shimmer).
Make no mistake, however: “Ocean’s 8” is a spin-off, not a reboot. This point is hammered home in the first 15 minutes as Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) finishes serving a prison sentence for a fraud scheme, then visits the grave of her supposedly late brother. I’m sorry, Danny can’t come to the heist right now. Why? Oh, ‘cause he’s dead! But don’t be deterred, fellow Clooney fans — a brief-but-satisfying glimpse of our favorite silver fox lies ahead.
Once Debbie hooks up with her rock ’n’ roll partner-in-crime Lou (Cate Blanchett) to flesh out a daring Met Gala heist she cooked up while in solitary confinement, the plot really kicks off. The duo’s magnetic chemistry mirrors that between Danny and Rusty in the previous “Ocean’s” trilogy, and their frequent referring to each other as “honey” and “baby” implies that there may be a little bit more than just friendship underneath.
Each of the women that Debbie and Lou soon recruit bring a different strength to the team: Nine Ball (Rihanna) is the stoner hacker; Rose (Helena Bonham Carter) is the eccentric stylist; Amita (Mindy Kaling) is the scrupulous jeweler; Tammy (Sarah Paulson) is the suburban profiteer, and Constance (Awkwafina) is the street-smart hustler. But the stand-out of the star-studded cast is Anne Hathaway, hamming it up as the glamorous, shady movie star Daphne Kluger, whose 150 million dollar Cartier diamond necklace is the target of the heist.
The exquisite detail poured into the film’s costuming is a definite highlight — Blanchett’s rainbow of suits comes just in time for Pride month, and Bonham Carter’s Victorian-style dresses are perfectly on brand for the reigning queen of goths. If only the same vivid designs of the heistresses’ glitzy garb showed through in Ross’ bland directing, which lacks that cinematic zest that director Steven Soderbergh sprinkled into the previous “Ocean’s” trilogy.
While a few nagging components of the team’s heist are a bit cliche and recycled, the plot itself is rarely dull, until the introduction of the woefully miscast fraud investigator (James Corden) in the third act. He bogs down the story with poorly camouflaged exposition, but his more significant crime is taking the focus away from the much more compelling women characters.
In fact, the few men in the film (excluding a delightful few cameos from Danny Ocean’s original team) detract from what “Ocean’s 8” is about: sisterhood. In an empowering monologue to a bathroom mirror, Debbie tells herself, “You are not doing this for me. You are not doing this for you. Somewhere out there is an 8-year-old girl dreaming of becoming a criminal. Do this for her.”
Considering Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones’ refusal to return for “Ocean’s 13” (2007) after the writers failed to provide them with active, leading roles, the gender politics of this all-woman reboot are especially revolutionary. “Ocean’s 8” is projected to make the most money out of any movie in the entire “Ocean’s” franchise, which suggests a potential “Ocean’s 9.” Hopefully, the sequel will include more women not just in front of the camera, but behind… and a Brad Pitt cameo.