By-the-num­bers ‘Ocean’s 8’ cov­ers fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory

The Korea Times - - MOVIES - By Lind­sey Bahr San­dra Bul­lock, left, Ri­hanna, cen­ter, and other cast mem­bers are seen in “Ocean’s 8.” (AP)

Steven Soder­bergh’s “Ocean’s Eleven” re­make is hard movie to live up to. Its starry charm was backed by a breezy and de­cep­tively dense script full of mem­o­rable char­ac­ters, dizzy­ingly com­plex lo­gis­tics and lively film­mak­ing that Soder­bergh him­self couldn’t even recre­ate in the two se­quels. But it is un­de­ni­able that even the near-per­fect “Eleven” was miss­ing some­thing pretty ma­jor: Women. You know, be­sides Ju­lia Roberts, that black­jack dealer and the one ex­otic dancer.

So why not, 17 years later, fix that egre­gious over­sight by gath­er­ing up a few Os­car and Emmy win­ners and nom­i­nees, a Grammy-win­ner and a buzzy come­di­enne to keep that Ocean’s fran­chise go­ing and ac­knowl­edge the other half of the hu­man pop­u­la­tion? If only “Ocean’s 8” was as a fresh and smart as that first one. (Hint: It’s not for lack of star charisma or tal­ent.)

San­dra Bul­lock an­chors the cast as Deb­bie Ocean, the never-be­fore-men­tioned sis­ter of Ge­orge Clooney’s Danny Ocean, who has taken up the fam­ily busi­ness to vary­ing de­grees of suc­cess (we meet her in a pa­role hear­ing) and prefers to work with­out “hims.” “Hers,” she later ex­plains, can go un­no­ticed.

And in­deed, Deb­bie uses what could be a hand­i­cap very much to her ad­van­tage in a rol­lick­ing shoplift­ing spree at Bergdorf’s. It helps, of course, when you look like San­dra Bul­lock and you hap­pen to have left jail in full hair, makeup and cock­tail dress. But it’s still quite a bit of fun see­ing her act the part of a wealthy and en­ti­tled shop­per who tries to de­mand a re­fund for the items she’s lit­er­ally just pinched from their shelves. 90 per­cent of her method is sim­ply look­ing like she be­longs and tak­ing ad­van­tage of the priv­i­leges that af­fords her.

Don’t ex­pect this level of class or gen­der com­men­tary from the rest of the film, how­ever. “Ocean’s 8” suf­fers from a bit of tonal whiplash. Half the time it seems to be veer­ing into grotesque “Sex and the City” wor­ship of brands and celebrity.

Deb­bie’s plan is to steal a $150 mil­lion di­a­mond neck­lace. In or­der to do so, she and her as­sem­bled team of sa­vants have to first in­fil­trate the or­bit of a va­pid celeb, Daphne Kluger (Anne Hath­away), and con­vince her to wear said neck­lace to the Met Gala, where they’ll steal it and di­vide the earn­ings ac­cord­ingly (a cool $16.5 mil­lion each).

The team in­cludes Lou (Cate Blanchett), who dresses like a glam rocker and spends her time wa­ter­ing down well vodka for profit; Rose Weil (He­lena Bon­ham Carter), a kooky past-her-prime fash­ion de­signer des­per­ate for a come­back; a jeweler in a rut, Amita (Mindy Kaling); Nine Ball (Ri­hanna), a hacker in dread­locks; Con­stance (Awk­wa­fina), a pick­pocket; and Tammy (Sarah Paul­son), a sub­ur­ban mom who can’t quite quit her white col­lar crime ways.

While Blanchett and Bul­lock are pre­dictably solid in their roles and get at least a few mem­o­rable mo­ments of wor­thy ban­ter, it’s Hath­away who re­ally steals the film with a wickedly on-point satiric turn a spoiled star. It is Hath­away’s Mi­randa Pri­estly mo­ment, and could have only been made bet­ter had she gone full-meta and played a char­ac­ter named “Anne Hath­away.”

The celebrity skew­er­ing is first-rate, but, for the most part, if you’ve seen Soder­bergh’s “Ocean’s Eleven,” you’ve ba­si­cally seen “Ocean’s 8” too. Di­rec­tor and co-writer Gary Ross ("The Hunger Games”) fol­lows fa­mil­iar story beats and at­tempts, un­suc­cess­fully, to ape Soder­bergh’s film­mak­ing style. And his glimpse in­side the Met Gala makes that fa­mously glam­orous event look aw­fully pedes­trian.

It also doesn’t help that the stakes never seem all that real in “Ocean’s 8,”and when they do fi­nally get an ad­ver­sary, in a de­tec­tive played by James Cor­den, it’s more for laughs.

There was a dan­ger to “Ocean’s Eleven” and a thrill in see­ing that team suc­ceed. Here, none of the women seem to have any fal­li­bil­ity at all, and you never find your­self doubt­ing whether or not they can pull it off. Per­haps there is some­thing sub­ver­sive to the idea that all Deb­bie has to do is so­cial shame two se­cu­rity guys from en­ter­ing a women’s re­stroom, but we’re there for a some­thing more elab­o­rate too.

That’s kind of the over­all prob­lem of “Ocean’s 8.” It’s all pred­i­cated on the fact that women are of­ten un­der­es­ti­mated. But in mak­ing that point, it’s also some­how un­der­es­ti­mated the au­di­ence who still should be en­ti­tled to a smart, fun heist, no mat­ter who is pulling it off.

“Ocean’s 8,” a Warner Bros. re­lease, is rated PG-13 by the Mo­tion Pic­ture As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica for “language, drug use, and some sug­ges­tive con­tent.” Run­ning time: 110 min­utes. Two and a half stars out of four.

Warner Bros

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