Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Review of OCEANS 8: Fabulously Filching Females

June 20, 2018

It has been 11 years since the last film of Steven Soderbergh's "Ocean's" trilogy. which started with "Ocean's Eleven" (2000), then "Ocean's 12" (2004) and "Ocean's Thirteen" (2007). The series starred superstars George Clooney, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt, and set a pretty high bar for classy heist movies. This year, maybe in tune with the recent trend for female empowerment, a spin-off with an all-female cast was released to perhaps revive the trend set by its predecessor. 

Danny Ocean's sister Debbie (Sandra Bullock) was just released from incarceration for a major case of fraud. Still a natural con-woman to her core, she had been planning a big heist in her head all those five years she spent in jail. So the momentDebbie was out, she got together with her old girlfriend and partner in crime Lou (Cate Blanchett), to set her major big-time plan in full motion. 

She got her team together: fashion designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham-Carter), jeweler Amita (Mindy Kaling), tech-savvy hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna), skilled pickpocket Constance (Awkwafina) and fence Tammy (Sarah Paulson). Her goal:  to steal the multi-million dollar Cartier Toussaint diamond necklace while it is being worn on the neck of celebrity Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) during the Annual Met Gala.

Sandra Bullock does not in any way look like she could be a sister of George Clooney, but like in all her other films, she can really make any character likable. I wanted to see her intricate plan come together, and was hanging on to every piece of the puzzle as they fit in to complete the picture. 

The other character I liked was that played by Anne Hathaway, another actress whose goodwill alone can save any role she was playing. She played Daphne with her tongue completely in cheek, like it was a satire of any of those vapid self-centered celebrities who only care about how they look during events. 

The other gals were just introduced too quickly for us to know them better and care about them more. Cate Blanchett's Lou was her usual strong and capable persona. Helena Bonham-Carter's Rose was her usual kooky and eccentric persona. Rihanna's Nine Ball was the usual cool as a cucumber techie. Nine Ball had a younger sister who just so happened to be a magnet expert when they needed one -- now that one was hard to buy.

Mindy Kaling's Amita was the usual mousy spinster with mommy issues. Awkwafina's Constance was really an uncomfortable screen presence, and she looked out of place among the other ladies. Sarah Paulson's Tammy conveniently had the technology or the connections needed to achieve certain aspects of their plan. At times, this could a bit too convenient for comfort.

I was pleasantly surprised with the 11th hour appearance of James Corden as insurance investigator John Frazier. Of course, he was practically acting like he does in his TV show, but still, so funny. The other male of note in the cast is Richard Armitage, who played the charming but unscrupulous art dealer Claude Becker, who had once had an entanglement with Debbie five years ago.

I really enjoyed watching this smart caper unfold, as told by writer-director Gary Ross. Say what you will about crime does not pay, but I was actually rooting for Debbie and company to get away with it all. The sneak peek into the super exclusive Met Gala (which was just hot in the news and social media last month) was a bonus, along with the cameos of the glamorous celebrities who frequent this fashion event like Heidi Klum, Serena Williams, Kim Kardashian, among others.

Just like "Ghostbusters" before it though, this film will inescapably also be compared to the original all-male gang. For sure, these awkward assembly of ladies could not keep up with the more dapper charm of their male counterparts. However, they do have their own sense of delightful fun and cleverness that carried the film through. I am hoping for a sequel with a better-plotted, more complex heist story to further challenge the talent of the cast. 7/10. 

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