Stream-In: a review of OCEAN’S EIGHT (2018)

By Josh Muchly

They made a list and checked it twice, but didn’t reward the good girls and boys for watching.

Upshot: Ocean’s Eight centers on Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), Danny Ocean’s never-before-mentioned sister as she corrals an all-female crew to attempt a heist at New York City’s Met Gala. Ultimately, the film is about as exciting as reading that description.

High-point: Nostalgia. I grew up loving Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s trilogy. I especially cherish Ocean’s Twelve because of how off-beat it was (and remains). Ocean’s Eleven was one of the first movies I saw in theaters without adult supervision, and therefore holds a special place in my history, albeit an unimportant one.

This female-led chapter captures some of the appeal of its predecessors, but more by way of acknowledgement rather than in appreciation, almost as if this film was just a list of elements that needed to be connected: cameos from the original (male) crew, conflict between Ocean and her closest confidant (in this case, Lou, played Cate Blanchett), a big payoff … They made a list and checked it twice, but didn’t reward the good girls and boys for watching.

Low-point: The wasting of Richard Armitage. I get that women were put in the spotlight in Ocean’s Eight, but director/writer Gary Ross didn’t even attempt tapping into Armitage’s talent. His character, Claude Becker (cool name), wasn’t written as a strong villain. He’s barely even menacing; he just looked annoyed at everything. Shame.

Rundown: “Eight” had a high bar to hit. Not because Soderbergh’s trilogy was Academy-Award winning stuff, but because his audience kept coming back out of love for the characters and the humor. Sure, these films will always conclude happily, but we came back for the zany adventure Soderbergh took us on, not a twist ending. Gary Ross had to capture THAT audience (me) while also building something within the same universe with new characters. Ultimately, he didn’t pull it off.

Indeed, even Bullock’s Debbie Ocean couldn’t help but visit the resting place of her beloved-brother Danny (George Clooney). Multiple times! Like her, the audience is left grieving his death.

Moreover, it was only ever okay for Danny Ocean’s gang to pull off their heist(s) because they were out for revenge against someone worse (think Robin Hood). The element of revenge is still present in “Eight,” and we are meant to sympathize with Debbie as she seeks it; however, the heist and her revenge aren’t really all that correlated. Ultimately, her gang is just stealing because they enjoy being criminals. So be it. Danny Ocean, contrariwise, took bigger risks and played with higher stakes (“Tess does not split eleven ways.”). I guess Gary Ross thought Debbie Ocean incapable of that.

The cast, to be fair, does their best with the content provided. Bullock, Helena Bonham Carter and a surprise appearance from James Cordon were highlights.

This film is currently available to stream on HBO NOW.

Rating: 2/7

I didn’t feel the love.

Post-script:

That this is a majority-female cast didn’t bother me at all. In fact, despite Mindy Kaling’s mistaken and short-sighted claim, I have been quite fair to this film: I spent two hours finishing it despite my reservations as well as the film’s generally negative reception.  Indeed, my biggest critique is NOT that the genitalia or skin-color of the cast is different than mine; rather,  it’s that these characters were underdeveloped and these actresses were underused.

 

 

 

 

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