Photo courtesy of Fabius Maximus. Now out on DVD.
To be completely honest, I was not expecting much when I walked into the theater to see “Ocean’s Eight.” From the trailer, it seemed like just another summer blockbuster, full of star power and lacking substance. About 15 minutes into the movie, however, I realized just how wrong my first impression was. By the end of the movie, I was eager to see it again. The story it wove, the world it built and the characters the movie created begged a second watch. Instead of racing back to the ticket booth to buy a ticket for the next showing, I decided to write this review as a way of convincing people to experience the movie magic.
“Ocean’s Eight” begins by following Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) as she is released from prison. Bullock opens with a strong, convincing performance that, when bolstered by the talent of the supporting actors, draws a viewer into the movie almost immediately. As the movie continues, the audience and the other characters learn of the heist that Ocean schemed up while in jail. Ocean first reveals it to her longtime partner in crime, Lou (Cate Blanchett). Once Lou agrees to the plan, they go on a quest to find six other women who can help them.
The audience learns about the lives of each other member of Ocean’s Eight one by one, until a core ensemble cast is assembled. The cast consists of characters played by Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Awkwafina, Rihanna and Helena Bonham Carter. All the women bring their own charisma, charm and comedy to the screen; it’s character acting at its best. One of my favorite moments is when we see Awkwafina’s character show off her pickpocketing skills on the streets. With a movie like “Ocean’s Eight,” strong actors are necessary for success, and this cast sure was strong.
What was truly amazing about this movie was that no one performance carried it; although Bullock played the titular role, I would not classify her as the star. While Bullock did have some laugh out loud moments, my personal favorite being when she pretended to be an angry German socialite, each actress had a scene in which they stole the show.
In addition to the great acting by the core cast, the movie featured many fun cameos. A good portion of the movie’s action takes place at the MET Ball, and the fictional depiction of the red carpet had almost as many actual celebrities as the real one.
While I felt that the acting made the movie, I definitely believe that the plot made the film truly great. Often in movies like “Ocean’s Eight” the plot is weak because the producers and directors are counting on star power and action to draw in crowds. This movie, however, is an exception. Without giving anything away, I will say that the plot is intricate and fun. All glaring plot holes were wrapped up by the end, and any slightly unrealistic aspects of the story were so fun that they did not become annoying. “Ocean’s Eight” also had a sort of glamour to it that I appreciated. If I had to describe the vibe of the movie, I would say “Gossip Girl” meets a heist movie. The plot sucks you into the lavish life of the New York rich; Hathaway’s character is a starlet with an apartment that overlooks Central Park. It also featured all of the fun and exciting aspects of an elaborately planned heist. Needless to say, this is a combination that needs to happen more often.
It is commonly known that “Ocean’s Eight” is the female version of Steven Spielberg's “Ocean’s” series. Debbie Ocean is the sister of Danny Ocean from the original franchise. This fact alone is pretty cool, as we don’t often see a female-driven heist movie.
However, the movie goes beyond female empowerment. In the film it appears that Lou and Debbie have a romantic relationship. While this fact is not unimportant to the plotline, it is also not what the movie is about. Up until “Ocean’s Eight,” I had never heard of, much less seen, a movie in which the two main characters have a same-sex relationship that doesn’t consume the entire plot. We see more diversity as the movie continues, with three of the “Ocean’s Eight” being minorities. Again, even though these characters are not white, their ethnic identity does not make up their identity. Instead, these women identify with their profession and skills. Awkwafina is an outlandish pickpocket, Rihanna is a hacker with an affinity for weed and Kaling is a very single diamond expert. All stereotyped attached to this character come from their personality traits, not their national origin.
“Ocean’s Eight” also contains no tough conversations about what it means to be a minority. Those types of conversations are important to have in mainstream media, but I found it refreshing to see a movie where minorities can take a leading role without having to focus on life as that minority. In this sense, I hope “Ocean’s Eight” represents the future of movies: a future in which many different minorities and sexualities can dominate the big screen.