When the remake of “Ocean’s Eleven” was released in 2001, directors Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney assembled one of the highest-wattage casts ever. Many of the cast members were at the apex of their box office careers (for others, this was literally their peak). Audiences went crazy for the caper movie and two additional, less popular and much more confusing, sequels followed. Now, the heist is on again with “Ocean’s 8” – this time with an all-female crew.
Like its predecessors, the filmmakers have compiled an all-star line-up. Sandra Bullock leads the team as the sister to Clooney’s character. As the film starts, she is up for parole after being framed for an con job gone bad. She’s been plotting her next job for more than five years, and finding different ways to perfect it. Upon re-entry to the world, she links up with her former partner in crime, Lou (Cate Blanchett) and they set off to build a who’s-who team of all women (because for once they want to go unnoticed, Bullock says, half-jokingly, early in the film) to steal a diamond necklace at the infamous Met Gala.
That team includes Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Paulson, and Mindy Kaling, in addition to fun cameos by Dakota Fanning and none other than everyone’s favorite editrix Anna Wintour herself. Among the eight main cast members – which also includes Anne Hathaway – they have four Oscars, two Emmys, and eight Grammys. In comparison, the remake’s cast of 12 had nine Emmys, one Grammy, and two Oscars – the Emmys and Grammy awards all came from the same person, however. So, needless to say, this is a more accomplished cast.
The timing seems to be ripe for a girl power version of the “Ocean” movies, unlike a few years ago when it was considered sacrilegious to gender swap “Ghostbusters” for the 2016 remake. For as much sisterhood that is shown onscreen, the behind-the-scenes creative team has a whole lot of Y chromosomes. Soderbergh is back in a producing capacity, while Gary Ross (“The Hunger Games,” “Big”) directs and co-writes with Olivia Milch. And this isn’t even talking about the obvious, unspoken pay disparity jokes that it takes only eight women to do what it took almost a dozen men to accomplish.
Due to the size of the cast, it feels that none of the characters, other than Bullock and Blanchett, have much screen time. However, Ross and Milch have managed to expertly pair up the actresses with their roles, allowing the supporting cast to shine in their limited time on screen. Rihanna, still relatively new to acting, is the most surprising. The role doesn’t ask her to stretch herself too much, but she proves more than competent. On the other hand, Sarah Paulson feels the most underutilized among the actresses.
“Ocean’s 8” also marks a comeback for Bullock, who was last seen on the big screen in 2015’s little-seen “Our Brand is Crisis,” and Hathaway, who has been absent for the last two years. Bullock is coming back with a role that feels specially tailored to her strengths and the characters that she has previously played. Hathaway gets to have more fun with her role, offering a send-up of the image that led her to be so maligned in real life for years. She’s a spoiled, vapid actress and she is winking at the audience the whole time with her perfectly over-the-top antics.
While the film doesn’t always go into the nitty gritty of how the women are planning to pull off their heist, the third act twists are fun. More importantly, the actresses are all having fun and that translates onscreen, and makes “Ocean’s 8” a light and fluffy popcorn flick that ranks up there with the original Clooney version in the series hierarchy. You’ll be left wanting more from these women, but hopefully their next adventure won’t be so tailor-made for women only. It would be a crime to not see them compete with the big boys in future outings.