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Saturday, June 09, 2018

Ocean's 8

Ocean's 8 is a light and breezy summer entertainment that not only serves as a nice balance to the usual bloated blockbusters we get this time of year, but it also holds a cast of truly talented women who are truly having a blast.  It's as much fun to watch them as it obviously was to make.  And while the movie does make the occasional comment on how women are viewed in today's society, it wisely never gets sidetracked with making a statement.  It just wants to be a fun little heist film, and it succeeds. 

Director Gary Ross takes over for Steven Soderbergh, who directed the previous three Ocean's films, and has the role of producer this time around.  Ross, a filmmaker with an uneven track record (his best directing effort remains his first one, 1998's Pleasantville), would seem to be an odd choice to follow a director like Soderbergh, but he shows tremendous skill here in keeping the film moving, and in creating an ingenious crime for his main characters to pull off.  It's only during the lengthy epilogue that the movie turns a little sluggish, but it's not bothersome.  He also is clearly having a lot of fun poking fun at the celebrity and fashion worlds, and revels in both by including a number of cameos who are willing to poke fun at themselves or the industry they work in.  And by setting the action around The Met Gala, the annual fashion extravaganza at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, he gives us a setting we have not seen very often in the movies.

Sandra Bullock gets to take over as the ringleader of the crime as Debbie Ocean, sister of George Clooney's Danny Ocean from the previous movies.  From the very opening scene where Debbie is giving a performance to the parole board to let her out of prison after serving five years for a scam she was running with a man she loved (he turned on her, and pinned the crime on her), Bullock is commanding, funny, and more than capable of taking over the franchise.  As soon as she is free, Debbie makes tracks for New York City, and immediately begins scamming free luxury items from a department store, and a hotel room.  One of the joys of the film is how it uses real world locations throughout the city that are immediately recognizable to anyone who has spent ample time there.  As Debbie enjoys her freedom, she begins to set about a plan she was working on the entire time she was in prison.


This means assembling a team, and we get to witness the fun of Debbie gathering the women who will help her on her latest job of stealing a one-of-a-kind, $150 million diamond Cartier necklace from the starlet who’s wearing it in the middle of the Gala without anyone noticing.  She handpicks each member of her team for their specific skills that will be required to bring her plan into reality.  The first one she turns to is her old friend Lou (Cate Blanchett), who is a former partner of hers.  Bullock and Blanchett have an instant chemistry together, and the wordplay that they share gets some of the biggest laughs of the film.  From there, we are introduced to the other members of the team including a faded fashion designer with just enough clout to get them into the event (Helena Bonham Carter), a jeweler who hopes to use the money from the job to start a life of her own away from her mother (Mindy Kaling), a con artist and pickpocket (recording artist Awkwafina), a former criminal who is trying to lead a normal life in the suburbs with her family, but finds Debbie's offer too good to resist (Sarah Paulson), and a hacker who goes by the name of Nine Ball (Rihanna).

And then there is the young starlet who will be wearing the rare necklace, the actress Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway).  She obviously is playing the most important job in the plan, even if she doesn't know it.  The way that Hathaway dives into her character, creating a frequently funny portrayal of celebrity makes her one of the more valuable players in the film.  All of these women are great fun to watch, and the screenplay by Ross and Olivia Milch gives everyone a chance to shine.  But it's actually watching the job come together, and the thrill of seeing it get pulled off that makes the movie so much fun to watch.  It's thrilling seeing just how precise these women can be, and the job itself is thought out and executed so well that it's undeniably thrilling.  And like the best heist movies, nothing is quite what it seems to be, and we get some last minute twists and turns that are not only surprising, but a lot of fun.

Ocean's 8 exists simply as escapism, and I think it succeeds.  Could some of the characters been drawn a bit deeper (Kaling, in particular, is given little to work with as a character)?  Absolutely.  But, the movie is such a good time, there's little use in complaining.  It's the kind of movie you may not remember much about six months from now, but you will at least remember it with a smile as you think back on the film.

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