What it's about: Debbie Ocean is a professional con artist newly released from a five year prison sentence. Her time behind bars gave her plenty of quiet time to hatch a perfect heist following her release and the opportunity to get a little revenge from the thin-skinned partner whose testimony put her away. Ocean puts together a team of eight strong and skilled individuals, including her long-time crime partners Lou and Tammy, diamond expert Amita, hacker Nine Ball, street hustler Constance, and fashion designer Rose Weil. Their mission won't be easy: it only involves infiltrating one of the most highly publicized fashion events of the year and steal a necklace so expensive it is typically locked away in its own vault in broad daylight.
First of all, can we figure out what the title of this movie is? It is listed as Ocean's Eight on the Internet Movie Database [which I usually take as the "truth"] and Ocean's 8 everywhere else. While Ocean's 8 is sleeker looking, it goes against the Ocean's films that came before, which never used numerals. OK, this is silly to argue about.
No matter what it is called, Ocean's 8 is meticulously designed to be as entertaining as possible. At times, it feels more like generalized pop culture than a movie. The constant music, flashy editing style, breakneck straight-forward heist plot, and endless cameos [I'll get back to that] are half irresistible-half cringe inducing. With this style, it can't help but come with a moderately fun, charming, uninspired, solid result.
Some might say the same about the original Ocean's trilogy [OK, not the original, but the ones that Ocean's 8 takes it cues from], but I actually wouldn't know -- they are complete blindspots for me. From that perspective, jumping into Oean's 8 is mostly pretty easy. Characters and prior events are referenced, actually do a pretty annoying degree early on, but the main plot stands alone.
The cast of characters is Ocean's 8 biggest strength and it really strikes the movie star quality well. Sandra Bullock is great in the title role -- no necessary build needed to believe she's got this under control. Her right-hard Cate Blanchett is typical Cate Blanchett, perhaps even more impressive in that her character is much less defined [I'm not even sure why she's there]. Anne Hathaway is perfect casting for the Hollywood A-list stand-in who is a bit of a rube. Helena Bonham-Carter is extremely funny as a washed up designer in a little over her head.
I don't know the last movie I saw that had this much product placement. Some of it is manageable, maybe necessary concessions of the film's overall narrative. Others instances, however, are grossly distracting. Was an entire transnational scene at a Subway necessary? [The camera placed behind the counter during the order, no less]. In another scene a garage is inexplicably filled with giant boxes with prominently placed corporate logos [GE, iRobot, Keurig all from the top of my head].
This gets into the wonky nature of the pop culture world on prominent display. The heist sequence is set around the First Monday in May gala at the Metropolitan Museum. It comes off mostly without being an advertisement for the event, though prominent fashion figures like Anna Wintour and Andrew Bolton are seen around. It is perhaps a necessary trade off to giving the film some realism. If brands like Cartier and Dior were replaced with made up knock-off sounding names, it could have been more of a distraction in the end.
The last half of the film, a majority of it taking place at the Met, offers plenty more opportunities for cameos and stars. Hey look, there is Kim Kardashian inconspicuously walking behind Debbie! Oh, Heidi Klum is going to make a silly comment about Debbie's fabulous dress? Now Olivia Munn is complaining about a delay in the festivities. Serena Williams talks about being a mom. There are more. Given crowd responses at random times throughout the movie, there were many that I didn't place. Some are awkward, some are fun.
Since Ocean's 8 was grounded in this world, why didn't they take the opportunity to have Anne Hathaway play Anne Hathaway instead of Anne Hathaway stand-in Daphne Kluger? There are all of these meta moments throughout the film that it could have been a cool way to bring this self-referential attitude into the actual narrative. And I'm sure Hathaway would have been game, too. Given that this was the first thing my wife said to me when we left the theater, I'm guessing this isn't a unique point which makes it feel even more like a missed opportunity.
Another pop culture superstar that isn't in Ocean's 8 but becomes something of a specter over the whole movie is George Clooney. Again, having not seen Ocean's Eleven, Twelve, or Thirteen I don't know anything about Danny Ocean or how he ended up. Ocean's 8 really wants to make sure that he isn't forgotten, basically opening and closing with an in memoriam as if Clooney himself died and so couldn't be in the movie.