This one is all about the girls. Whereas the 2001 ‘Oceans’ update, led by George Clooney and directed by Stephen Soderbergh, was one of the biggest blockbusters of the past decade, “Ocean’s 8” finds Gary Ross directing an all-female crew led by Sandra Bullock as Clooney’s screen sister, Debbie Ocean.
This all-new tale features cameo appearances from the 2001 film by Elliott Gould and Shaobo Qin. In the 2001 version, Gould played Reuben, one of the right hands in staging the heist, while Qin’s Yen persona was the acrobatic thief who helped pull off the caper. Helping Debbie is Cate Blanchett’s Lou, Debbie’s best friend from years earlier. She is a good sounding board for Debbie’s trials and tribulations. Their friendship and interaction keep this movie afloat, despite all the ridiculous clichés that sometimes take center stage. The duo shares some great scenes, as when Debbie gives Lou the rundown on how long she’s planned the robbery: five years, eight months and 12 days.
Like Clooney’s character in 2001, Debbie knows what she’s good at, and that is a robbery, this time at the Metropolitan Art Museum gala in New York. That is only a portion of the storyline. The rest of the film is spent following the characters and the individual dilemmas each face. Rounding out the crew of eight are Sarah Paulson’s stay-at-home grifter mom Tammy, who leaves her child alone “so she can get some much needed time apart.” Also part of the group is Mindy Kaling’s Amita, who creates face jewelry while biding her time away from her parent’s restaurant business. Disgraced fashion designer Rose Weil, played by Helena Bonham Carter, finds herself designing fashions for Anne Hathaway’s starlet Daphne Kluger, who’s always on the inside track of finding someone hip. Rihanna stars as Nine Ball and Awkwafina as Constance.
Each of the characters add a nifty moment of sparkle and pizzazz to the film. The chemistry between the members of the troupe work, especially with a musical score that harkens back to previous chapters of the “Ocean’s” collection.
Ross knows how to film actors in their best acting moments. He directs with a fluid pace and there is not a dull scene or transition in the entire film. I hate to say it, but I wanted more. Ross has done credible work, most recently with the Matthew McConaughey-led “Free State of Jones” in 2016.
In the grand scheme of things, I gave the 2001 remake a grade of A-, with “Oceans Twelve” a less than stellar D- while “Thirteen” received a mediocre C+. As I said earlier, this one works, but did not deliver the right degree of vim and vigor for my taste. Grade: C+