The Oakland Post

“Ocean’s 8” prioritizes stars over substance, but the payoff is worth it

courtesy of IMDb

courtesy of IMDb

Trevor Tyle, Life Editor

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In the age of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, an all-female spin on a male-dominated film franchise shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. But 11 years after the end of the “Ocean’s” trilogy—fronted by George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon—comes “Ocean’s 8,” a female-fronted spinoff that isn’t exactly revolutionary, but still a whole lot of fun.

Director Gary Ross is no stranger to badass female characters, having directed Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in 2012’s “The Hunger Games.” But this time around, there’s a lot more women at the forefront—and they’re all killing it.

“Ocean’s 8” centers on Debbie (Sandra Bullock), the sister of Clooney’s character, the late Danny Ocean, Debbie. Following in her brother’s footsteps, she seeks to steal a $150 million Cartier necklace known as the Toussaint during the Met Gala—almost immediately after being released from a five-year prison sentence. Of course, she can’t pull off the heist on her own, so she enlists the help of her partner in crime, Lou (Cate Blanchett).

Needless to say, this still doesn’t suffice, so five other women are thrown into the scheme—disgraced designer Rose (Helena Bonham Carter), jeweler Amita (Mindy Kaling), computer hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna), pickpocket Constance (Awkwafina) and shoplifting mother Tammy (Sarah Paulson).

And where is the eighth woman mentioned in the title, you might ask? The key to the whole plan is actress Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway), a ditzy diva who Rose tricks into wearing the Toussaint after she is hired to be Kluger’s stylist for the event. Our leading ladies plan to swap the necklace with a fake during the event and then split the profits after they sell it.

For the most part, “Ocean’s 8” is a solid “Ocean’s” installment, but doesn’t add anything new to the franchise, opting to play it safe in spite of its controversial gender flip. It’s far from groundbreaking, but not exactly forgettable, largely thanks to its attitude that “heist movies don’t have a gender,” a concept that rings loud and true throughout this movie.

Ross does a fine job directing, but one can’t help but wonder what a female director like Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”) or Patty Jenkins (“Wonder Woman”) could bring to a film like this, especially given the flawless performances it offers. In fact, much of its charm comes from its stellar cast, whose remarkable chemistry and witty one-liners are what make “Ocean’s 8” worth the watch.

Bullock and Blanchett are an unmistakable dynamic duo—in spite of the limited character development the film provides—while the ever so versatile Bonham Carter shines, fake Irish accent and all. Meanwhile, Hathaway unsurprisingly nails her role as a spoiled product of Hollywood egotism. Yet, coming from one of the most humble A-listers in Hollywood today, there’s still something surprising about the conviction of her performance.

And be on the lookout for Awkafina, an up-and-coming rapper/actress whose role in this film is easily the most comical—one of her exchanges with Bullock’s character regarding a Metro Card is particularly comical. “Ocean’s 8” is surely only the beginning of a successful career for the promising star.

Though it drags a bit, the firepower at the forefront of “Ocean’s 8” is what allows it to succeed where other female reboots, like “Ghostbusters,” have failed. If nothing else, it paves the way for future female-led films by (mostly) refusing to compromise quality for political agendas.

In spite of its flaws, “Ocean’s 8” serves its purpose, delivering exactly what it promises—a fun, entertaining summer flick able to stand separate from the shadow of its male-dominated predecessors.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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