One of the hot button issues dominating the entertainment landscape is the call for proper inclusion. In the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy and the pay discrepancies between male and female actors, there has been an increased call for actors and crew who aren’t exclusively white men. And while the all-female Ghostbusters was met with massive backlash almost immediately, Gary Ross’ Ocean’s 8 has had significantly more positive buzz, partly due to the fantastic cast of actresses assembled. The casting paid off, because the crew of actresses make the film a fun and well-paced ride.
Directed by Gary Ross (The Hunger Games, Pleasantville), Ocean’s 8 is only mildly connected to the recent trilogy of films fronted by George Clooney. The film opens with Sandra Bullock’s Debbie Ocean, who is the estranged sister of Danny. After spending five years behind bars, Debbie is released and reveals she spent her time in captivity plotting the perfect heist. Now all she needs is the right crew– cue the montage!
Aside from the signature cinematography and the backdrop of a heist, Ocean’s 8 truly functions as its own story independent of the larger franchise. This is one of the film’s strongest aspects, as it doesn’t feel like a sequel, but the beginning of its own franchise. The climactic event is at the annual Met Gala in New York, and the film was shot across all five boroughs– far from the casinos of Vegas. There were no great effort to bring back major characters, and any connective tissue between the film and its predecessors will surprise and delight the hardcore Ocean’s fans in the house, rather than weigh this chapter down.
The new team of thieves features a fantastic cast, with almost all of them given the proper chance to shine and chew the scenery. The biggest scene stealer in the movie is undoubtedly Anne Hathaway’s Daphne Kluger– the target of the heist. Hathaway plays the dramatic and privileged actress with perfect abhorrence, and shines in every one of her scenes. There are also strong performances given by Sarah Paulson, Helena Bonham Carter, Awkwafina, and Mindy Kaling. It’s through these quirky characters that the heist, and the overall film, get moving. With this crew, Ocean’s 8 will keep you laughing for hours and cheering for its cast of icons.
Unfortunately, not all of the cast is quite as strong. Out of the delightfully motley crew, Rihanna ultimately ends up the wallflower. Ri Ri looks stunning and cool as hell as the hacker Nine Ball, but either doesn’t have the right material to work with or simply isn’t a comedian. Either way, her presence ends up mostly tertiary, despite the undeniable star power of the singer. And while Cate Blanchett’s Lou is sexy and able to banter with Debbie, it’s unclear why she’s even invested in the heist. Furthermore, she makes an ultimatum with Debbie that is never mentioned again, despite the protagonist totally going against her word.
As far as the Ocean’s franchise easter eggs go, director/writer Gary Ross and his co-writer Olivia Milch ultimately went with a “less is more” method. There are a handful of passing references to Danny Ocean, which helps remind you what property you’re watching. There are also a few quick cameos which I won’t spoil here. Of course, there are a bevy of other cameos involved. Given the set of the Met Ball, Ocean’s 8 managed to accrue some A-list talent to serve as extras. There are also plenty of fashion icons involved, as well. So those fashionistas who are more into the Kardashians than the Ocean’s 11 franchise will have plenty to ogle at and enjoy.
It should be interesting to see how Ocean’s 8 does at the box office, as it seems an obvious choice for a potential sequel opportunity. While the all-female Ghostbusters movie was DOA, the strong performances, pacing, and Gary Ross’ balance of his all-star cast gives Ocean’s 8 the potential to be a franchise starter of its own.