Oceans 8 feels like another day at the office.
The biggest heist of all in “Ocean’s 8” may not be stealing a $150 million diamond necklace but rather that a movie with eight female leads is by default about powerful women.
I’ll buy into the fact that when Sandra Bullock’s character Debbie Ocean (the central but extraneous connection to the original “Ocean’s” series) is released from prison after five years, she's wearing heavy eyeliner and sensible nude lipstick. Never mind that real female prisoners are using Kool-Aid and melted Jolly Ranchers to put on a happy face. Or that her comeback job swiping merchandise (more makeup, surprise!) at Bergdorf Goodman sets off nary a security alarm.
I get it. Suspension of disbelief.
Debbie gathers her band of mischievous thieves, beginning with former cohort Lou (Cate Blanchett), who helps to assemble the rest of the team. It takes the first half of “Ocean’s 8” to meet all the players, intercut with flashcard-like shots that set up elements of the forthcoming heist. The broad-stroked characters (small-time pickpocket, hacker, bored housewife, etc.) are familiar set-ups though Helena Bonham Carter as an eccentric has-been fashion designer adds a much needed quirky kick. But for the most part, their introductions are like watching someone bake a cake. Mildly entertaining (if you get to lick the bowl) but you’re more interested in the final outcome.
Writer/Director Gary Ross, who successfully created breathtaking tension in 2012's "The Hunger Games," here keeps the audience one step ahead of the curve when we'd prefer to be the relay anchor, running to catch up with where these ladies are headed next.
We eventually arrive at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the team plans to swipe the jewels off the neck of socialite Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) and replace them with a 3D-printed copy. While the Met provides a stunning backdrop for glitterati and glamour (along with stilted cameos by Kim Kardashian and Heidi Klum, among others), it also inadvertently provides a glaring snapshot of racial disparity.
Bullock’s character is at the top of the pecking order, dressed as a gala attendee and sporting a terrible accent that’s reason alone to get her kicked out, while the rest of the team fall into various roles within the event to pull off the heist. One might argue that somebody needs to go undercover in the kitchen. I’ll buy that, but even within that construct, Mindy Kaling and Awkwafina’s characters are relegated to kitchen help while Blanchett’s character inexplicably inserts herself as one of the catering company’s head chefs. Oh yeah, suspension of disbelief. The team’s slow-motion exit strategy may be meant to offer an equalizing redemptive moment, but it feels as fake as the cubic zirconia necklace. Debbie and the gang pin the crime on her ex-boyfriend (who was the one who landed her in jail in the first place), each taking their cut and moving on with their lives.
We’ve come a long way from solely portraying women as secretaries but “Ocean’s 8” feels like another day at the office.
Matthew Wexler is an editor at EDGE Media Network. Read more of his work at wexlerwrites.com.