IN DEEP WATERS
This gender-switching heist remake is a crime in itself.
A female-driven cast doesn’t save Ocean’s 8
It’s been 17 years since director Steven Soderbergh (during his “remake the films that made me” period) paid homage to the 1960 Frank Sinatra and the “Rat Pack” heist film Ocean’s 11 by updating it and bringing together the cream of early 21st-century male movie stars. Ocean’s Eleven was a resounding success — fast-paced, witty, stylish and giving a wink to Hollywood’s past while firmly satisfying the audience demands of its future.
Problem was, like so many things Hollywood of the 21st century, the Ocean’s team just didn’t know when to quit. And so we had to endure the increasingly slavish and sluggishly less adept outings of the gang for two more films in which the main motivation of everyone involved, like their loveable criminals, seemed to be nothing much more than to make an easy buck.
In the Hollywood of 2018, with the pressure on to create more positive female role models and allow female stars the access they’ve been denied to the mainstream, it’s no surprise that everyone’s favourite heist franchise has been given the gender reboot treatment.
That’s all very well, and were director Gary Ross’s film as smart, fun, entertaining and stylish as Soderbergh’s “original”, there’d be nothing to do but compliment its undeniably talented cast for a job well done. Unfortunately, thanks to a complete lack of innovation on the part of its director and a script that wastes the talents of its ensemble cast, Ocean’s 8 is a disappointing shadow of what it could have been.
This is not because I’m viewing it through the eyes of a white, male thirtysomething, but rather because I’m viewing it with eyes.
On paper, the teaming up of Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Paulson and Awkwafina should provide the perfect meld of old, new, sharp, brainy, multiracial womanhood that’s needed to give the patriarchy the good kicking in its behind that it so sorely needs in the post-Weinstein, -Spacey, -Cosby era. On film, however, the problems begin almost from the start as the predictable plot unfolds under the lazy eye of Ross’s predominantly insipid direction.
It has all the witty dialogue and backand-forth chemistry of a Mormon highschool dance.
Debbie Ocean (Bullock), sister of Clooney’s Danny from the Soderbergh reboot, has spent five years in jail planning the perfect heist. All she needs is to assemble a team with her former partner Lou (Blanchett). Together they begin to recruit their co-conspirators.
There’s talented procurer Tammy (Paulson), stoner and ace-hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna), diamond expert Amita (Kaling), has-been, down on her financial luck fashion designer (and cheap Vivienne Westwood parody) Rose Weil (Bonham Carter), and cardsharping pickpocket tomboy Constance (Awkwafina).
The plan? Steal a $150million (R2-billion) necklace from the House of Cartier that will be worn on the neck of seemingly feckless celebrity Daphne Kluger (Hathaway) at the hottest social event of the New York calendar, the Met Gala.
For Debbie’s own personal cherry-onthe-top revenge, this will also stick it to her slimy, conniving art-dealing ex-boyfriend Claude Becker (Richard Armitage).
As we move from the familiar and not particularly inventive recruitment phase through to the all too predictable and frankly way too easy planning phase, there’s little in the way of character development or tension between the crew to make us feel that we haven’t seen all this before and, dare I say it, done better.
By the time the not-so-clever and not nearly nail-biting enough actual execution phase arrives, it’s hard not to feel that everyone involved is phoning it in.
If you can’t see the final “old switcheroo” coming from a mile off then I can only assume it’s because you fell asleep.
What should have been an opportunity for a clever redo of an old genre is instead a mostly boring, not very funny or memorable straight gender swap of tired tropes and one-dimensional characters that does nothing for either itself, the talents of its cast or its audience.
Instead of a reboot it all reads like a bad parody.
Perhaps in the hands of a more enthusiastic and inspired director, Ocean’s 8 might have risen above being just a yawning heist film that happens to place a crew of women at its centre. Unfortunately, in the hands of Gary Ross, it’s nothing more, nothing less, nothing new and nothing worth wasting time on. LS
INSTEAD OF A REBOOT IT ALL READS LIKE A BAD PARODY
The cast of ’Ocean’s 8’, from left, Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Awkwafina, Mindy Kaling, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway and Sarah Paulson.