Ocean’s 8 isn’t awful, but it will probably disappoint you


Ocean’s 8 has a phenomenal cast and a great concept, which isn’t quite enough to elevate its stiff writing and sloppy execution.

You’d think a movie about a bunch of women stealing a $150 million necklace from the Met Gala would have a hard time not looking cool. But on top of some seriously bad pacing, what Ocean’s 8 really lacked was exactly what it tried to showcase: style.

The movie starts out as the trailers suggest. Debbie Ocean fakes remorse to the tune of an early parole. She then immediately cons her way into some nice clothes, cosmetics, and a fancy hotel room. With how long the movie spends on this sequence you’d think she was robbing a bank vault, instead of just getting snippy with retail clerks.

From there, she goes on to assemble the team, which leads to multiple sequences in which things just sort of plod along as you might expect. Then they plan the necklace heist. More accurately, the plan that Ocean has been cooking up for the five years in prison is laid out for the team (and the audience) to passively absorb.

Finally, they actually steal the dang thing. We then get to watch James Corden (who admittedly made it work as best as anyone could) interviewing bus boys to sniff out insurance fraud. It is a sequence so baffling in its placement after the theoretical finale that it feels like it must have been originally shot as a framing device. The story ends on a twist, which is more tiresome than exciting because it means the movie is about to spend more time explaining how things happened.

That lack of tension might have been the movie’s biggest failing. The closest the heist ever comes to failure is when a security guard stands in the vicinity of the bathroom where Mindy Kaling is taking the necklace apart. There was never a moment when the success of the enterprise felt genuinely at stake. The plot just lines up, plods past, and turns around to shout some final comments over its shoulder.

What makes this movie watchable despite its flaws is the cast. There are some great performances here, and good chemistry that unfortunately isn’t given the screen time to fully develop. The closest thing to an emotional through-line is Ocean’s desire to frame the ex-boyfriend who got her thrown in jail. But there’s no complication in that; Ocean’s partner Lou (Cate Blanchett) acts like she’s out of the heist for a hot second, but we all know she isn’t going anywhere. Without the character angle, we’re just watching a fairly straightforward heist go off largely without a hitch. Not exactly edge-of-your-seat stuff.

What really would have put an emotional backbone at the center of this movie — and granted, I am writing this as a useless bi in the middle of Pride month — would have been to play up the relationship between Ocean and her partner Lou. The chemistry was already there; I mean, come on. You can’t just have Cate Blanchett eat off of Sandra Bullock’s fork while saying how irritating she is without telegraphing major romantic tension. Then again, it’s hard for Cate Blanchett to do anything without telegraphing romantic tension. (There’s a decent chance I’m low-key in love with Cate Blanchett.)

Romantic or not, spending more time on Ocean’s relationship with Lou (or honestly, anyone’s relationship with anyone) would have made this movie not just watchable, but actively enjoyable. A mediocre plot can easily be saved by great characters. Though they put this fantastic cast in a room together, mostly they all just sat around.

On an unrelated note, if I was ever pinned by a boulder and my only hope of survival was to cut my own arm off, my implement of choice would be Richard Armitage’s nose. The man’s face looks like Michelangelo carved it out of titanium with an industrial grade laser.

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Ocean’s 8 has a great cast, presented in a story which falls flat around them. At the end of the day, it will never not be awesome to see so many women on screen at once. I’d be curious to see how this movie might have turned out with an exclusively female writer/director team. I’d see this mediocre movie 2-3 times just to watch a grungy Cate Blanchett playing with a lighter.