Ocean’s 8 makes clear that it is not just a heist movie in the vein of Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s trilogy, but part of the very universe, immediately cementing ties to the franchise of films that came before it (and numerically, after it). The titular Ocean of the original trio was George Clooney’s Danny Ocean, and now we meet his sister, Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), upon her release from prison. Debbie is a reformed woman, she promises the parole board. Crime ran in Danny’s blood, but not hers.
Of course, Debbie is smoother, slicker and more audacious than her big brother was and, after strutting out of prison in a slinky dress and stiletto pumps, she breaks the other promise she made: to avoid anyone with criminal a background. Debbie quickly reunites with her partner, the brassy, Judge Judy-watching conwoman, Lou (Cate Blanchett), to orchestrate the biggest jewelry heists in history. The M.O. of which is, basically, “Because I want to.”
Their plan — and the movie’s title — calls for six more non-law-abiding ladies, and Debbie soon woos them all: flighty failing fashion designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter); the lovelorn jeweler, Amita (Mindy Kaling); goofy Millennial street thief Constance (Awkwafina); the green juice-drinking soccer mom who deals in stolen goods, Tammy (Sarah Paulson) and Nine Ball, a deadlocked, blunt-smoking hacker played by Rihanna. (Do the mental math and you’ll see one member is unaccounted for…)
Debbie and Lou provide the most compelling pairing, their relationship both tender and touchy, an undeniably Sapphic current coursing underneath every interaction. (Alas, it goes unexplored in this film. And during Pride month, no less!) Blanchett and Bullock nail the zippy banter, and no one would raise their nose as watching that duo in a two-hander, right? Which is good news, because that’s essentially what Ocean’s 8 is. The rest of the team never actually get much to do. Nine Ball is cool mostly because she’s played by Rihanna. There is one scene midway through the movie, almost at random, of Amita and Constance bantering about Tinder. I wanted more of that. I wanted to know more about who these characters are, what makes them tick. I wanted to crack the surface layer, dig down and discover a little grit and a little grime with all the glamour. I wanted to see all of their relationships develop as they became ensconced in the heist.
Anyway, the heist! The plan is to rob New York City’s illustrious Met Gala — or, more accurately, a six-pound diamond necklace off the neck of actress Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) who will be hosting the event. Hathaway is a hoot, poised and playful and utterly devouring scenery. Her Daphne Kluger swans and vamps, half her lines purred or moaned, like a broader, dizzier cousin of her Catwoman person. Daphne acts hysterical, and Hathaway is hysterical at it.
The movie itself is glossily directed by Gary Ross (The Hunger Games), snappily written by Ross and co-writer Olivia Milch (Dude) and edited on iMovie, if the whirl transitions are any indication. It’s all enjoyable enough to watch: The sweeping shots of NYC! The lavish wardrobe — Givenchy and Prada and Zac Posen — with a new outfit in every scene! The cameos from OG Ocean’s teamsters (not the one I was expecting), and Anna Wintour, and the Kardashians and Jenners and Serena Williams all serving as set dressing! And though the logistics of the heist itself aren’t as expertly designed as the movie would have you believe, once it gets going, it’s nothing but fun.
Ocean’s 8 is good, when I wanted it to be great. I suppose that might be a side effect of years of anticipation, of my own expectations, of assembling a cast like this. Yet, like Ocean’s Eleven before it, were I to be flipping through the channels and stumble upon Ocean’s 8 showing on whatever station, I would stop and gladly watch the rest. (Which I intend as the highest compliment.) So, maybe Ocean’s 8 is the perfect heist, in that it’s everything I wanted it to be — and it’s not until afterward that I realized something was missing. Maybe the con is that, all along, they’d made a movie I could never dislike, and then let Anne Hathaway steal everything.