Adrift In Soderbergh Nostalgia: A Review Of "Ocean’s 8"
As soon as Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) gets out of prison, she’s on a scamming spree that’s enjoyable to watch, and puts Ocean’s 8 off on the right foot. She’s devious, daring, and entertaining. Sister of the deceased Danny Ocean (played by George Clooney in the three previous Ocean’s directed masterfully by Steve Soderbergh), Debbie then proceeds to plan her dream heist—to steal the fabled Cartier Toussaint diamond necklace, while it’s being worn by celebrity Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) at the Met Gala.
To achieve this she assembles her crew, and plans the heist—which takes up the first 2/3rds of the film. There’s former confederate Lou (the under-utilised Cate Blanchett), suburban housewife and looter Tammy (Sarah Paulson), jewellery maker Amita (Mindy Kaling), street hustler Constance (Awkwafina), techie Nine Ball (Rihanna), and the down at her heels fashion designer Rose (Helena Bonham Carter). Directed by Gary Ross from a screenplay Gary worked on with Olivia Milch, the film chugs along splendidly up to this point. Ross wrote Big & Dave, and directed Pleasantville and the first Hunger Games (yes, lower those eyebrows).
It’s as the heist actually goes into effect during the Gala that I felt the film concentrated on atmosphere, and had its share of light comedic moments; but lacked the nail-biting tension and fear of the operation being jeopardized, or being wowed by the split-second change of plans needed to create success, that the Soderbergh films had in spades. We’re treated to cameo after cameo—Anna Wintour herself, tennis greats Serena Williams and a Maria Sharapova, Zach Posen, Alexander Wang, Kim Kardashian and the Jenner sisters—but the glitz and glamour don’t replace the need for a modicum of thrills and heart-stopping moments. We gush and gape, and smile, but we aren’t pushed to the edge of our seats.
And this is a shame, as the onscreen chemistry of the cast is effective. Bullock even makes hilarious use of her real-life German ancestry. Kaling and Awkwafina are comedians and they’re given their moments. So yes, Soderbergh has ‘retired’; but Ross seems to be in too relaxed a mode directing this caper.
It’s like we’re on a pleasant flight, a few air bumps along the way, but cruising along; when what we wanted and needed was the adrenaline rush of skydiving or a bungee jump. Ocean’s 8 definitely does better than say, Ghostbusters in rebooting a popular film with an all-female cast —I only wish that with such a talented group of women, the Director had pushed more, and not made us nostalgic for Soderbergh.
Photos from Ocean's 8 movie official website