That is to say, it’s delicious and indulgent and something to luxuriate in: a treat. Do you want to have a good time? A good time shall be had. Do you want to ogle outrageous wardrobes and gowns? Ogle you will. Are you here for a cast of talented actresses clearly enjoying the hell out of each other? They’re here for you. Are you into point-blank jabs about everything from the marginalized role of women in society to the difficulty of nurturing female friendships in cutthroat careers? Jab away. Ocean’s 8 covers all of its bases in delivering something for everyone—it’s fun, stylish, funny, slick. The clothes are amazing. The women are INCREDIBLE.
Sandra Bullock anchors the ensemble as Debbie Ocean, Danny Ocean’s sister. (The film hedges “he-might-or-won’t” on whether or not George Clooney will ever return to this franchise.) She is just getting out of jail after a five-year stint thanks to a snitch named Claude (Richard Armitage). Sandra Bullock was America’s Sweetheart in the 1990s, but secretly she is an actress who excels at playing Women Who Walk Purposefully, and Ocean’s 8 understands this about her and has lots of shots of Debbie Walking Purposefully, and even styles her in a series of sweeping coats and gowns to swirl dramatically around her as she does. This is one of 8’s greatest strengths: knowing how to style and frame each woman for their most natural on-screen presence. Bullock is the shot-caller, moving with purpose and secret momentum throughout the story.
Her partner is Lou (Cate Blanchett), and the movie suggests Debbie and Lou might be more than just partners-in-crime without actually committing to them being in a relationship. That is annoying because this kind of half-assed non-committal representation isn’t actually helping anyone, but Bullock and Blanchett play it like Debbie and Lou have History. Blanchett is just as well-placed on screen, her natural sexiness oozing out of every pore as she slinks and slouches about in a series of fabulous menswear outfits—her wardrobe is AMAZING—and provides the casually cynical check to Debbie’s driven planning. I would watch a hundred movies of Debbie and Lou planning various crimes.
The other women get their due, though Mindy Kaling doesn’t have quite enough to do, and if the hacker Nine Ball were played by anyone other than Rihanna it would be a nothing part. But as Lainey says, when Rihanna shows up, she SHOWS UP, and her natural state of Being Rihanna makes Nine Ball a fun foil for Debbie to bounce off. Helena Bonham Carter and Sarah Paulson are both wonderful, and Awkwafina really pops as the pick-pocket Constance.
But waltzing through and completely stealing the show is Anne Hathaway as flighty actress Daphne Kluger. Hathaway is as bright and sparky as she was in The Devil Wears Prada, and reminds you, in case you forgot, that she is a mother*cking STAR. She always hits the exact right note for each scene, she does a BRILLIANT take on a screwball comedy starlet, and she does it without seeming to exert herself at all. It’s like she has reached her final form and she is here to annihilate us with her perfect timing and charisma.
Ocean’s 8 is not all froth, though. It mostly is, it 94% is, but there is a little bitter with the sweet. There are pointed jokes about women’s visibility in society, about the presumed link between age and relevance, and Daphne Kluger’s whole deal is basically playing down to society’s (non)expectations for beautiful women. There is also a neat little piece of subtext about independence and financial independence that plays out in a satisfying way. Danny Ocean and his cohort stole for revenge, or because they could, or because they had to because revenge is a two-way street, but while Debbie has an agenda, what 8 low-key emphasizes is women seizing a moment to claim some independence for themselves. It’s a nice piece of business.
Ocean’s 8 is a GREAT time. The only quibble I have is that Gary Ross is not the most interesting director for this project. The heist is executed well—though it is a little more Thomas Crown Affair than previous Ocean movies in style—and it’s not like he’s a BAD director or anything. It’s just that 8 could use an authorial stamp as strong as the presence of the women on screen. The pointed observations and messaging are all in the telling and there is nothing about the visuals that enhances or illuminates these women beyond really good lighting. I couldn’t help but wonder what someone like Karyn Kusama or Lexi Alexander would do with an all-female heist caper. But it is a relatively minor complaint because again, it’s not like Ross is embarrassing himself. And Ocean’s 8 is incredibly fun and glamorous and sly. It’s a cinematic bon bon. Treat yourself.
Attached - the full cast of Ocean's 8 at the premiere in New York earlier this week.