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starring Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter
screenplay by Gary Ross & Olivia Milch
directed by Gary Ross
by Walter Chaw Gary Ross's Ocean's Eight is the perfect nightmare: something you're rooting for sociologically that's artistically bad. It's a film with an all-female cast that tries very hard to be racially diverse as well--unlike Paul Feig's Ghostbusters, for example, which declines to show any Chinese people in its New York City, even though it's set largely above a Chinese restaurant. Similarly, the kindest thing that could be said about Ocean's Eight is that it's strangely listless, aggressively mediocre, doggedly unmemorable, while the most accurate thing that could be said about it is that it could have benefited from people of colour in some kind of meaningful role behind the camera. The time is coming, hopefully soon, where movies that just take intellectual properties and recast them with women will also be written and directed by women--who, you know, probably have something to say about women. Although Olivia Milch, hyphenate behind the decent Dude (and probably the only reason Awkwafina got a shot at Ocean's Eight, pre-Crazy Rich Asians), co-wrote this one with Ross, Ocean's Eight has "glad-handing equivocation" written all over it. I don't want to say it's terrible, but...but, I really don't. Best to say that Ocean's Eight won't ruin any careers because the women are already established stars and Gary Ross, as a white guy in the business, is essentially bulletproof and fire retardant, too. True equality, after all, is when women are allowed to make movies this awful and, like their male counterparts, don't spend any time in movie jail for the offense, either.
The mastermind behind Ocean's Eight's convoluted plan to steal a MacGuffin of a diamond necklace is Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), sister of the late Danny Ocean, who, the film makes clear at least three times, may not be dead. She's getting out of prison as the movie opens, crying crocodile tears at her parole hearing before going on a miniature crime spree and getting back together with her partner in the profession, Lou (Cate Blanchett). Lou is a nightclub owner given to vintage jumpsuits. Suggestions that the two are partners in more than crime, alas, are left to the better version of this movie--the one with courage and brains. (Completing the Wizard of Oz trifecta, Ocean's Eight also lacks anything like heart. In case you were wondering.) Debbie wants to steal the six-pound Cartier abomination but can only do so with the help of brilliant "street hacker" Nine Ball, pickpocket Constance, fence and general exposition generator Tammy (Sarah Paulson), and, shit, who else? Oh, yes, gone-to-seed fashion designer Rose (Helena Bonham Carter) and jeweller, I guess, Amita (Mindy Kaling), who has a fraught relationship with her mother according to the trailer, I think. "But that's only seven," you say, to which I say nothing. The plan has to do with lots of planning and talking and an entire Powerpoint presentation with video that essentially tells the conspirators their cuts will be substantial. It involves a famous actress named Daphne, a role filled by Anne Hathaway. Hathaway should've just played an exaggerated version of herself, because that would've been funnier and, you know, interesting. Like Notting Hill, say, which is a movie I really liked.
There are no memorable interactions between the women, the heist itself is unmemorable, and minutes after it ended, I thought about the many things that don't add up and decided that I don't care--not because Ocean's Eight was so good as to negate its plot holes, but because remembering them all would require watching it again. The film has about it an air of impenetrability it shares with its male-dominated predecessors in the franchise: a fabulous party peopled with the rich and famous to which you're absolutely not invited. It's glamour pornography: edgeless, free of stakes, populated by superhumans who cannot be injured by the world and seek only to enrich themselves further at the expense of fabulously useless institutions of hedonism protected by slightly duller humans. The timing for Ocean's Eight, in other words, couldn't possibly be worse, whether or not it's any good. If I were a woman, I might take offense to this distaff version revolving around ripping off a fashion party celebrating costumes and jewellery. Maybe not. Dangerous to speculate. I will say that a late-film fashion show with each character, inexplicably, draped in beautiful gowns, descending a staircase in slow-motion, demonstrates a particular violence towards women, in that the culture of objectification is not dispelled here but glorified. (It's no different than Captain Marvel's unshakeable beauty-shop coif after beating up bad guys.) Ocean's Eight made its money--plenty against a low budget and probably enough for an Ocean's 9. What's good for the goose...
THE BLU-RAY DISC
Ocean's Eight comes home courtesy of Warner via a sterling 2.39:1, 1080p presentation highlighting DP Elgil Bryld's rich browns and warm accents. When Debbie gets out of prison after a five-year stint, much of it spent in solitary so this genius has time to think, the light brown highlights in her hair come through in gorgeous cocoa tones. Allowed to shoot at the Met for real, the picture does the masterpieces showcased therein a real service. Ocean's Eight is a beautiful-looking film, at least, transferred with utmost care from a digital source. As I was spared the movie in theatres I have nothing to compare it against, but frankly it looks a lot better than it needs to, and I can only imagine the impact HDR would have on the already-dazzling colours in the separate 4K release. The attendant Dolby Atmos soundtrack does a more than adequate job of showcasing the dialogue-heavy soundstage with fidelity. It all sounds very robust, though there's nothing noteworthy about the mix itself. Extras begin with two Deleted Scenes (2 mins., HD) that feature first Paulson riffing, then Bullock riffing. Paulson's character goes on about how crazy the Gala is and then Bullock's teasing of the Paulson character's new suburban lifestyle gets extended. Another great unexplored idea in this film is how domesticity seeks to constrain a woman's behaviour, by the way. Maybe the sequel.
"Reimagining the Met Gala" (13 mins., HD) finds an enthusiastic Ross talking about how the film LITERALLY couldn't have been made without permission to shoot at the Met. Bullock, a key participant in these special features (as conspicuous for her omnipresence as Rihanna is for her absence), gushes about everything and everyone. She's been on the junket a long, long, long time. "A Heist in Heels" (12 mins., HD) is an (amazingly) offensively-titled featurette that covers the casting of these women, with Milch chiming in to touch on a couple of themes that just aren't present in the film. Most of the actresses interviewed reveal in some way that their reasons for saying "yes" to the project have to do with being in a movie where traditional male roles are female. In "Ocean's Team 3.0" (13 mins., HD), Ross discusses these characters in terms that are probably exactly how they were introduced in the script: "loner" and "cold, calculating" and "street hacker" and so on. I need to take a moment here to wonder if they would've made Nine Ball a "street" anything were she not black and/or Rihanna. Fuck that noise, you guys. What the actual fuck is a "street" hacker? Stop yourselves. The punchline is Bullock saying she felt like Rihanna's mother when, in order for Rihanna to be able to finish a scene, she held her dreads back, away from Rihanna's face. My new thing I want to see is the video where Rihanna drowns Bullock in a swimming pool for touching her hair. Start-up trailers for A Star is Born (2018) and Crazy Rich Asians--because, chicks, amiright?--round out the sparse, slipcovered presentation.
110 minutes; PG-13; 2.39:1 (1080p/MPEG-4); English Dolby Atmos (7.1 TrueHD core), English DVS 5.1, French DD 5.1, Spanish DD 5.1, Portuguese DD 5.1; English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese subtitles; BD-50; Region-free; Warner