Safe women seldom make history. Silver screen suffragettes, Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, Helena Bonham Carter, Rihanna, Anne Hathaway, Awkwafina and Sarah Paulson, are women who make history off-screen but play it too safely in this fourth revising of the Ocean’s franchise to be memorable among the ranks of intricate, gender-bending heist films. The plot of “Ocean’s 8” is simple. Safely simple.
Double-crossed by a partner, Debbie (Bullock), spends five years in prison brooding over the perfect crime. Released in an evening gown and stilettos, she marches into Bergdorf Goodman on a shoplifting binge of makeup, perfume, clothes and then it’s off to a 5-star hotel for a stolen room. She contacts her old friend, Lou (Blanchett), and together they assemble a team of ladies who are willing to steal the $150 million Tuissant necklace – created and held by Cartier – during the Met Gala.
For Ocean’s fans, who expected a leading-ladies parallel, this is a friendly warning that all hallmark features of the Ocean’s trilogy are non-existent. Fast-talk, quick hands, double-crossing and the messy intricacies of thievery under sophisticated security with advanced technology clouded by lengthy voiceovers are all missing. The writing lacks risk and is essentially “Ocean’s 2” starring Bullock and Blanchett with the other ladies scooted off safely as their lackies. It’s appalling to watch the souls of these award-winning women dazzle in blotchy pulses of poorly written moments and comatose character development. Aside from Blanchett and Bullock’s frail, undivulged relationship and line-slurping scenes, there is no team-assembly montage to provide any background for the characters. In fact, the other six don’t talk to each other at all. Or would that be too stereotypical of ladies?
Let’s be clear. There are already a handful of memorable heist films flaunting all-female casts. This is not an Ocean’s remake featuring women. It’s a mundane heist film featuring an amazing cast of women. These ladies are happy and relaxed with nothing on the line. Even the revenge is polite. No blockbuster heist is this sterile. There is no cursing, killing, kidnapping, running, high-speed chase, snitching, arguing, slapping or edge-of-seat-sphincter-puckers. Aside from a 3D printer – which we don’t get to watch replicate jewels (we see the actress’ expressions as they “oooh” and “ahh” toward the printer) – there is no tantalizing tech, which is half the fun of any heist movie.
For Feminists and Womanists, this film – heavily marketed for female empowerment – defeated its own purpose. Rihanna is literally the Belle of the Met Gala and co-chaired 2018’s event alongside Anna Wintour, Amal Clooney and Donatella Versace. Yet, her character is a lowly street-smart hacker. Nice, but we’ve seen it before and don’t want to see it on RiRi. A tongue-in-cheek lampoon of her real-life role as co-chair of the event and fashion mogul would have given the film ample bravada. Kaling plays a master jeweler and has one important scene that highlights her dramatic hues but, otherwise, she’s tucked away safely. Bonham Carter safely sprinkles her magic on her dimly written role but comes up empty-handed. Awkwafina, who holds a degree in women’s studies and is famous for “My Vag,” somehow safely hoped to defy stereotypes of Asian women by portraying a low-level pickpocket. Hathaway is the only member of the cast who seems to relish her role as a narcissistic, vapid A-list actress: A safe, stereotypical role. Paulson is a suburban mom who hoards her heisted items in the garage under the safe guise of eBay shopping. No cliché there.
Under the direction and writing of “Hunger Games” Gary Ross and fledgling co-writer--29-year old, Olivia Milch--the scene stealer is James Corden. A man. A funny man but a man who steals the second act of a film promoting female excellence in theft. Irony.
For fans of capers, watching the plot unfold without any hiccups or stereotypical cattiness is satisfying. For Fashionistas and fans of all things fabulous, the cameos make the movie. There are over 21 surprise stars and designers, including the Madam of the Met Ball, Anna Wintour. The wardrobe and designs are a sumptuous fashion feast and you can read more about the actual necklace that inspired the film here: http://www.vogue.co.uk/article/oceans-8-cartier-heist-necklace-anne-hathaway
Ocean’s Fans: 5 of 8 Glam Miners
Caper/Heist Fans: 6 of 8 Masked Miners
Fashionistas: 8 of 8 Posh Miners
Feminists/Womanists: 5 of 8 Heisting Miners