Beginning with a visual blur, as several current movies do, the all-female Ocean’s 8 takes a while to take shape, settling into a generic caper movie groove which is ultimately as satisfying as its advertising. Sandra Bullock leads but doesn’t carry the picture.
Part of the problem with this light, occasionally and mildly entertaining heist film is that Ms, Bullock, a skilled actress capable of delivering outstanding performances, is as blank and expressionless as Cher, whose camp status compensates for whatever she lacks. Sandra Bullock (The Lake House, The Blind Side, Miss Congeniality) is a versatile performer, however, in this movie she’s blank.
She plays a thief who is granted early release, seeking to execute an elaborately schemed jewelry theft and exact revenge on the man who snitched. Cate Blanchett, dressed as a West Village type punk rocker inexplicably prone to wearing masks on her head, plays her partner. This is as much character development as the Ocean’s 8 audience gets.
The heist’s hook is a 3D printing-powered conspiracy carried out by a team of women who are lying, cheating, lowdown criminals, so there’s no redemptive characterization. They’re all as fake as reality TV, which is amply represented by a bunch of Kardashian cameos. There are too many to mention but, besides punky Blanchett and Cher-like Bullock, there’s Helena Bonham Carter looking and acting like a dotty version of Madonna, Sarah Paulson as a housewife and a multicultural cast which includes pop singer Rihanna as a computer hacker.
Product placement abounds, with plugs, plants and feathery tickles for Brinks, Cartier and the Met, besides the Kardashian clan. It’s a frothy, occasionally fun, underworld without men. Even Paulson’s character, who has a husband, barely shares screen time with someone of the opposite sex, which eventually appears to be at least part of the point of the innocuously pointless Ocean’s 8. At one point, Paulson’s character is depicted chiding her son that it’s not OK to put gum in his sister’s hair.
That, the lesbianism and the revenge subplot sort of hit the audience over the head with the malelessness of the movie, which comes off at its best with an air of a Devil Wears Prada fashion show, minus the token gay male sidekick.
Women can be inscrutable, smooth, cagey criminals, too, is the thematic upshot, such as there is one, in the bland pickup of the recent Ocean’s 11 movie series. A light, pop/jazz-infused score which includes a strangely electronic overlay of Nancy Sinatra’s one hit wonder and Maurice Jarre’s Lara’s Theme from Doctor Zhivago comprise the brisk, pleasant, toe-tapping musical score by Daniel Pemberton.
The problem with the implausible Ocean’s 8, directed by the talented Gary Ross (The Hunger Games, Pleasantville) is its lack of plot and character development. The audience never gains access to the Sandra Bullock character’s plan or the team’s skill sets in advance. So when one small character says “it’s bloody interesting”, I have to admit I thought it isn’t. Everything plays out without any foreknowledge, so the heist comes together as if by magic.
Co-starring Anne Hathaway as an irritating and vapid celebrity, who at one point chooses to prostitute herself, casting more doubt on the already dubious credibility of Hollywood’s Me, Tooism as a vehicle for female liberation, Ocean’s 8 provides the immediate gratification one gets from playing in a puddle.
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