“Somewhere out there, there’s an eight year old girl wanting to be a criminal. We do this for her,” says Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullocks) to the rest of her crew. It sums up what makes the change in perspective in this movie so crucial.
An all female led sequel to the Ocean’s trilogy (starring George Clooney as Danny Ocean), Gary Ross’s “Ocean’s Eight” tells a similar yet different tale. Debbie has replaced her brother Danny for a heist and the team has all the obvious members, such as a jewellery maker (Mindy Kaling) and a disgraced fashion designer (Helena Bonham Carter) because the target of the robbery is the MetGala, the biggest party of the year. The movie doesn’t have much to say but what it does have are fun and quick laughs.
As expected with the genre, the movie opens by showcasing Debbie’s smooth skills as a thief and a con artist. She gets out of jail only to spend a night in a grand hotel suite without paying a dime. And she has a plan. She wants to steal a multi-million dollar diamond necklace during the gala, because “banks are too boring”. She convinces Lou (Cate Blanchett), her partner in crime to join her and then they put together an all women team because it’s easier for a ‘her’ to be ignored and to avoid suspicion. The movie continues as they plan everything to the last detail, using tense sequences weaved in with comic relief until the party starts and they enter a glamorous world. We indulge in colourful and fashionable dresses accompanied by shiny accessories. One almost wonders if it was a creative choice or just catering to a gender related narrative. What ensues is neither new nor creative, but you get through the movie without any gaping plotholes.
The movie has a stellar ensemble of actresses, many of whom have already shown great impact on screen. But somehow none of them stand out in their performance here. Aside from being all female, they are also racially diverse though not necessarily given the room to break the more rigid stereotyping of minority groups. They share as much of the screen time as others but are given few moments to shine. However, it needs to be mentioned that Anne Hathaway, playing air-headed celebrity Daphne Kluger, stole the show with a quiet smile and a surprising role reversal. As the movie progresses, it becomes increasingly apparent that it was being fueled by its characters rather than its plot.
The movie’s biggest letdown arrives when it introduces the ex-boyfriend trope. It’s almost as if even in a movie filled with women, the biggest motive for the heist had to have something to do with a man. It neither serves a purpose nor helps with the image the movie tries so hard to project. But it can be ignored, as we focus on a movie that moves along without any major hurdles, taking us through a familiar route with fun performance and simple, at times sly humour.