When done right, an undemanding movie can be one of the most enjoyable watches of the year. That’s exactly what “Ocean’s 8” is: a movie whose goal is to make you sit back, relax, and watch some Hollywood’s most talented actresses pull off a heist for high-end jewelry.
Yes, that is the premise of “Ocean’s 8,” following in the footsteps of “Ocean’s 11,” “12,” and “13” (all directed by Steven Soderbergh). Sandra Bullock leads the pack of female thieves, looking to steal a priceless diamond necklace from the annual Met Gala, one of the most extravagant parties for entertainers to ever exist. It’s a simple heist film without award-winning gimmicks or super sophisticated script-writing, and I give it credit for not trying to be anything else. While some (myself included) anticipated a messy and pretentious feminist reboot of Soderbergh’s superior films (well, “11” and “13”), “Ocean’s 8” is merely a chance for the ladies to enjoy themselves just as George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon did. Witty one-liners and shameless support for illegal activities (Bullock has a definitive line about helping a young girl who wants to be a criminal) tell us everything we need to know: “back off, we’re having fun.” There doesn’t need to be any deeper social significance for an accessible movie like this, even though Buzzfeed will certainly try to angle it as a championing piece about the patriarchy’s evils.
Now don’t get me wrong. “Ocean’s 8” isn’t great cinema. Not even close. Quite a bit of the writing is sloppy and uneven. It’s predictable. It shoe-horns its way into the established “Ocean’s” franchise. Rihanna acts. Perhaps it’s my weakness for heist movies and the chemistry of a pretty solid cast that makes this film an easy watch.
Speaking of cast chemistry, everyone has their respective part to play, and since it’s a lower number than 11, we can remember each distinct character. Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett pull rank as the group leaders, with Blanchett taking a behind-the-scenes role while Bullock charms her way to the top. Anne Hathaway plays the ditzy celebrity to a T, unknowingly assisting the thieves in their heist by wearing the prized necklace, while Helena Bonham Carter (a personal favorite) is at her heels as a scatterbrained fashion designer. Sarah Paulson and Mindy Kaling make up valuable support, offering subtle humor that reflect their better-known television roles. Rihanna and Awkwafina are the tail-ends of this dynamic team, and while I don’t see Rihanna as an actress ever happening, Awkwafina certainly holds her own as the shady pick-pocket who’s just looking for a good time. From Oscar winners to newcomers (Awkwafina has only been involved with mainstream films since 2016), this is a cast that works. “Ocean’s 8” is first and foremost an actors’ movie, even without churning out award-worthy performances.
Like the ladies themselves, the cinematography of “Ocean’s 8” is smooth and polished. It’s the one element that is on par with Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s” films (again, “11” and “13”), because we can’t tear our eyes away from the trickery at work for fear of missing one tiny detail. Again, it adds to the appeal of why this film is just such an enjoyable flick.
Is it great cinema? No. But at least “Ocean’s 8” puts a smile on our faces without being consciously pretentious, socially aware cinema.