Venue reviews: Ocean’s 8

The Ego has landed.

In places, Ocean’s 8 meshes more with the likes of Dior and I and Yves Saint Laurent than with Soderbergh’s rebooted heist trilogy. Under the direction of The Hunger Games’ Gary Ross, Eigil Bryld’s camera glides seductively across spangling dress reveals and clinking champagne glasses with an opulence to rival Panem’s Capitol. But the choreographed con job beneath this glitzy, brand-spattered Ocean’s ultimately bubbles to the surface thanks to a charismatic all-female cast. Like aspirin into champagne, we’re tossed into Ocean’s 8; a pacey, poppily-edited heist movie that truly delights in showing off.

We open with a callback to Soderbergh’s remade Ocean’s Eleven. A woman sits dewy-eyed in an orange boiler suit before a police officer. This is Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) – convicted catburglar and younger sister of the late Danny. Her parol speech is also familiar: having seen the error of her ways, Debbie wants nothing more than to live the simple life, going for walks after work and paying her bills. Her brother’s blood – she assures –  is not hers.

Of course, the smile into which Deb lapses the second she’s paroled from prison is instantly recognisable. Within her first night of freedom, she glides effortlessly through Chanel and expensive hotels under names that aren’t hers. But though Deb obviously revels in the joys of casual theft (almost as much as Bullock herself delights in portraying her), she’s not turned casual yet. She’s been planning the ultimate heist for years: a jewel stakeout at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Reuniting with cool-headed partner-in-crime, Lou (Cate Blanchett), Deb tracks down the very best in the thieving biz to rob the prestigious Met Gala: an annual ball dedicated to the very finest in modern fashion. But while they’ll need the preparation, choreography and expert timing required of Danny’s meticulous jobs, Deb’s team has one unique strength: they’re all women. At an event where “men get noticed, women don’t”, no one’ll be any the wiser.

Much of the charm behind Ocean’s 8 is how little it depends on the prior remakes; how easily it exchanges Soderbergh’s tendency toward languid slow motion and ample Clooney-schmoozing (Cloozing?) for fingersnapping pace and delivery. Bullock doesn’t draw too much from Eleven’s male lead, instead recalling the glib self-confidence she displayed in The Proposal and The Heat. Blanchett is the smart-talking rock of the group; leather clad and dry-humoured, Lou exudes classic Bad Boy from every pore, and pulls it off with recognisable Blanchett authority to become the very epitome of cool.

The coolheaded rapport sustained between Bullock and Blanchett is countered winningly by a fidgety (and just-passably Irish) Helena Bonham-Carter, whose whimsical flightiness is given amusing weight by Mindy Kaling’s matter-of-fact delivery. Inarguably enjoying herself most is Anne Hathaway as the preciously egotistical Daphne Kluger, who seems to exist in a permanent Chanel advert, working the pout-sigh-hairflip cycle with hilarious commitment.

Elsewhere personable mononyms Rihanna and Awkwafina provide an up-to-the-minute counter amid the ritzy splendour. Awkwafina is bolshy and nimble as the street-grifting Constance, injecting a squirrely energy between Deb and Lou’s dry banter. Sparingly-scripted, Rihanna makes a grounded, yet almost endearing hacker-type, and though tending to float outside the group’s rapport, her deadpan delivery as the pot-happy ‘Nine Ball’ lines this Oceans’s bag of fun one-liners. Meanwhile, Sarah Paulson is somewhat underspent as the neurotic Q of Bullock’s operation, she is afforded a few glimmers of satisfaction amid the film’s affiliation for Bond-style gadgetry.

Ocean’s 8 mixes the charisma of its ensemble of Hollywood titans with the thrill of the heist, and in so doing provides a star vehicle that looks as much a joy to have been a part of as it is to watch. Exchanging Soderbergh’s occasional languidness for percussion, pace and pulse, Ross’s film isn’t the exclamatory ‘female overhaul’ some may claim of it, but marks a satisfying, playful return to New York’s pickpocketing playground on very much its own terms. It’s a chain of dress reveals, gadgetorial tinkering and breezy deception; in which we’re invited to join Hathaway’s beguiling Daphne Kluger in exhaling: “Oh. Look at you.

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January 2021
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