“Ocean’s Eight.

A glossy, polished, female revenge fantasy, crime caper, Gary Ross’s “Ocean’s Eight,” (*** OUT OF ****), starring Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, and Rihanna, amounts to the gender flip-side of Steven Soderbergh’s male-oriented heist trilogy “Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen.”  Comparably, “Ocean’s Eight” follows on the high heels of 2016’s “Ghostbusters,” with Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, and Leslie Jones, that gave gals the starring roles in the remake of the 1984 Bill Murray classic.  Predictably, “Ocean’s Eight” shares some similarities with Soderbergh’s extravagant, predictable, and often madcap epics.  “Ocean’s Eight,” however, isn’t as hopelessly fanciful as Soderbergh’s “Oceans,” but it unfolds in the same land of imaginary Hollywood realism.  As Danny Ocean’s younger sister Debbie, Sandra Bullock is fashionably appareled throughout this sumptuous PG-13 saga as are her comely conspirators.  Like brother Danny, Debbie recruits top-flight talent. If you’re afraid the authorities may nab and pack them off to prison, banish that thought.  The police are virtually invisible in this elaborate ‘mission impossible’ theft.  Indeed, our heroine flies so low beneath her parole officer’s radar that we never see either him or her surprise our heroine with an unscheduled inspection.  Make no mistake, “Hunger Games” helmer Gary Ross has made a palatable, attractive, and mildly suspenseful thriller that will probably hold your attention throughout its 11o-minute running time.  The flaw in this sophisticated heist caper is our dames walk away without a hair out of place.  Inevitably, they encounter some complications in “Ocean’s Eight,” but they never resort to physical violence.  Furthermore, nobody either catches a bullet or dies.

 

Like the “Ocean’s Eleven” (2001) remake, “Ocean’s Eight” opens with a contrite Debbie reassuring the authorities at Nichols Women’s Prison in New Jersey that she will avoid contact with all former criminal accomplices and family if she gets paroled.  “If I were to be released,” she sighs, “I would just want the simple life. I just want to hold down a job, make some friends, you know, pay my bills.”  No sooner has Debbie stepped out of stir than she steals everything in sight that she needs to wallow in the lap of luxury at a swanky motel during her first night out of prison.  If you remember “Ocean’s Eleven,” Danny told his jailors the exact same lies. Debbie’s brazen scam at the perfume counter later seems amateurish, but the movie makes it appear smoothly plausible.  Meanwhile, she learns that her estranged brother, Danny Ocean, has died. For the record, George Clooney played Danny Ocean in Soderbergh’s “Oceans” trilogy.  Specifics are never revealed about Danny’s demise.  Nevertheless, Debbie visits the mausoleum where her older brother has been buried to pay her respects.  She toasts Danny’s passage with a martini but doesn’t shed a tear.  Conveniently, one of Danny’s closest associates, Reuben Tishkoff (Elliot Gould of “MASH”), shows up on behalf of the fellows but fails to persuade Debbie to cease and desist. Is Danny really dead or is he in hiding?  Knowing Danny, Danny is probably holed up someplace.  More importantly, this bombshell revelation means no “Oceans 14!” Reportedly, Soderbergh has said in public that he has no plans for another “Ocean’s” escapade.

 

In “Ocean’s Eight,” Debbie has engineered the whole shebang down to the smallest detail.  All of her accomplices will walk away with cool double-digit millions and never have to ever commit another crime.  Debbie has no problem recruiting her former partner-in-crime, Lou (Cate Blanchett of “Thor: Ragnarok”), to join her and outlines her audacious plan to rob ‘the most exclusive party in America,’ the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual Gala, in New York City.  Like Danny, Debbie assembles an A-Team of experts from every field to execute her fool-proof plan.  Reluctantly, Lou accommodates Debbie. Together, they enlist an out-of-fashion, fashion designer, Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter of “); an Indian jewelry-maker Amita (Mindy Kaling of “A Wrinkle in Time”), an African-American computer hacker, Nine Ball (Rihanna of “Battleship”); a white suburban housewife fence, Tammy (Sarah Paulson of “Serenity”); and an Asian-American pickpocket, Constance (Awkwafina of “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising”), to pull off this crime of the century. When Amita asks Debbie how long the latter took to concoct her bold scheme, Debbie replies specifically “five years, eight months, and twelve days.” As it turns out, this is the length of time that Debbie spent in prison for a crime she didn’t commit, all owing to a treacherous art dealer, Claude Becker (Richard Armitage of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”), who double-crossed and framed her.  Not only does Debbie savor the prospect of exacting vengeance on Becker, but she also tells her cohorts they are committing this grand crime for all those little girls aspiring to be career criminals.

 

Principally, Debbie and her partners dupe an arrogant but glamorous movie starlet, Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway of “Love & Other Drugs”), into serving as their innocent accomplice.  They hoodwink Kluger into hiring Rose Weil to dress her for the gala.  Rose insists Daphne wear the legendary Toussaint, a world-renowned, six-pound, Cartier diamond necklace that has been locked up in an underground vault for the last fifty years.  Initially, the Cartier people refuse to let the Toussaint, a bauble valued at $150 million, see the light of day. Reluctantly, they agree, and two seasoned security experts safeguard the necklace.  Meanwhile, Tammy infiltrates the company coordinating the gala and works from within, acquiring all kinds of invaluable information.  Nine Ball hacks into the security system to pinpoint the arrangement of all surveillance cameras.  Inevitably, Debbie and company must separate Daphne from the Toussaint. This sequence with poor Daphne crouched over a toilet hurling her guts out is simply sidesplitting. Although he doesn’t drum up white-knuckled, nail-biting suspense designed to keep you teetering on the edge of your seat, director Gary Ross never lets the momentum lag for a moment with a charismatic cast and splendid cinematography.  An ideal gals’ night out opus, “Ocean’s Eight” qualifies as above-average with its cornucopia of humor compensating for its conspicuous scarcity of suspense.

 

 


Van Roberts

vtroberts@muw.edu

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