Movie Rewind: Ocean's 8

Updated: May 1, 2020

Ocean's 8 hit theaters at an interesting time in the history of Hollywood, with the push for greater representation in film in full swing by the time of its release. While the most recent awards season has illustrated the continued need for growth in this area, the idea of an all female-led remake of a well-liked franchise seemed like a home run at the time.


Ocean's 8 was a financial hit but received a lukewarm reaction from critics who generally agreed the heist plot never really found its footing despite a talented cast of actors performing at the top of their game. In the wake of negative reviews, some of the cast spoke out about the response claiming a lack of diversity among critics as an explanation for why the film wasn't well-received. Some critics pushed back, pointing to the unfavorable reviews the movie received from both male and female critics.


The call for greater representation continues to echo throughout Hollywood. Ocean's 8 represents an important milestone in the fight for more female-led films, despite its uneven response. Today, we rewind Ocean's 8 to see if it was just ahead of its time or if the lukewarm response was justified. Is Ocean's 8 worth a rewatch?


Plot


Debuting in the summer of 2018, Ocean's 8 marked the return of the Ocean's franchise seventeen years after the original premiered. Sporting a talented all-female cast, director Gary Ross attempts to restore the polish and luster that made the original so beloved, spurring two less successful sequels. While Ross mostly succeeds, the film relies far too heavily on the nostalgia of its predecessors resulting in a film that feels like a cheap, albeit entertaining, knock off instead of something brand new.


Ocean’s 8 is led by the capable Sandra Bullock as Debbie Ocean, the sister of the deceased Danny Ocean(George Clooney). Upon her release from prison, Debbie returns to a life of conning anyone she comes across in New York before seeking out former acquaintance Lou (Cate Blanchett). Reunited, Debbie and Lou put the wheels in motion for their next big heist: steal the $150 million Toussaint necklace off of actress Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) while attending the Met Gala.


Even after spending 5 years incarcerated planning the crime, the job will not be an easy one to complete. The Toussaint is housed in a fortified basement of world-renowned jeweler Cartier, who hire two bodyguards to protect the necklace the night of the gala at the behest of their insurance company. On top of this, Debbie’s ex-boyfriend Claude (Richard Armitage) will be attending the Gala as Daphne’s date. To pull off the heist, Debbie is going to need a skilled team. Luckily for her, she knows the right group of women for the job.


Debbie and Lou recruit jeweler Amita (Mindy Kaling), fashion designer Rose (Helena Bonham Carter), former associate Tammy (Sarah Paulson), pickpocket Constance (Awkwafina), and talented hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna). While the film is rather reluctant to give away any details of each woman's role until the actual heist, each member of the Ocean’s team has an important role to play. Though the second act does heavily lean on the women on the inside - Rose, and Tammy - to move the heist forward, it is the third act that allows each woman to truly shine in their respective roles.


What Worked


The success of the film rests solely on the shoulders of the terrific cast of women who make up the Ocean’s 8 team. While it could be argued that many of the supporting cast is given little character development, the cast has great chemistry, and it is clear that each actress is having fun in their respective roles. Akwafina and Rihanna particularly stand out as two surprises. They had good comedic timing and made the most of their screen time despite having little to work with. It is also hard to ignore Carter who dominates much of the screen throughout the second act. Her whimsical personality shines as oddball fashion designer Rose, providing a breath of levity throughout the whole film.


Still, this is Bullock’s movie and she is her usual steady self. Despite being the central character of the film, she is also the least interesting of all the women. There just isn’t enough meat on the bone for Bullock to chew, leaving us with an unspectacular performance among some stellar standouts. Nevertheless, she and Blanchette are perfectly charming together as the central characters of the film. Blanchette’s Lou exudes charisma whenever she is on screen. Of all the cast though, it is Hathaway’s unexpected comedic chops that steal the whole film.


What Didn't Work


Overall, Ocean’s 8 is an entertaining inclusion in the Ocean’s universe, albeit an unoriginal entry. Ross and writer Olivia Milch took great care to pay homage to its source material when developing the story. While they mostly succeed, the biggest misstep of Ocean’s 8 is leaning too heavily on the films that came before it. The general plotline of Ocean’s 8 is the same as Ocean’s 11: a convicted felon is released from prison and quickly puts together a team for a seemingly impossible heist. Further, several beats throughout the film are ripped straight from the original. One particular scene with Lou confronting Debbie was so similar to a scene between Rusty (Brad Pitt) and Danny in Ocean’s 11 that it was impossible not to realize how much Ocean’s 8 borrows from the other films.


While this familiarity of the story does help establish a similar tone to its predecessors, it inadvertently removes all the stakes from the plot. At no point does it feel like the heist is ever truly in jeopardy of failing. Rather, the audience is left waiting for the inevitable twist that will explain how they pull the job off.


Sure enough, the third act presents two twists. Unfortunately, the marketing material spoils the first twist as it paints Daphne as a member of the group planning the heist. However, the second major twist differentiates itself enough to provide a surprisingly refreshing spin to the heist film.


Is It Worth A Rewind


Overall, Ocean’s 8 is enjoyable enough to warrant at least one watch through, but does it deserve a rewatch? Despite surprisingly strong performances from Blanchette, Carter, and Hathaway, the reliance on its predecessors cheapens its rewatch value. The familiar tone and story are befitting for the world it exists in, making something that does pay honor to the films that come before it but it doesn't allow the film to offer anything new in the genre.


Based solely on quality, Ocean's 8 just doesn't do enough to steal the show and isn't worthy enough to steal a couple more hours out of your day. With that said, representation in film matters and it is important to support films with writers, directors, and actors from all backgrounds. If you are looking for an all-female led film to support, definitely rewatch this one as it is better than other recent female-led films such as Ghostbusters or The Hustle.

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