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Oceans Eight

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I recently caught Ocean‘s Eight on cable, and I have some thoughts.

It’s been years since I saw it… I caught it when it was originally in the theater, and just wasn’t impressed. It’s not that it was terrible, it’s just that it wasn’t great. I do think that it suffers from the whole “doing a girl version of this film”, conceit that was already getting played out when this premiered. But I think there’s more to it than just that.

I enjoy a lot of the supporting characters. Awkwafina is actually fairly good here. It shows that she’s best when you give her a script. In her own show, she pushes the obnoxiousness so far that she becomes unlikable. This script knows exactly what to do with her, and rains her in just enough that it’s quirky without going over the edge to ugly.

I’m a huge fan of Rihanna in this film. She comes off real harsh at first, and then you just fall in love with her. This woman is channeling the style and bohemian grace of Lisa Bonet, and by the end of the film she was very possibly my favorite character. Likewise, Helen Bonham Carter has A fun quirky role here that she actually gets to sink her teeth into. I love that they’re acknowledging age, but still giving her so much vitality. The 80s Madonna look that she’s got going on just adds to everything in her performance, and she knows when to be attentive, want to be awkward, and want to run with the scene. It’s a brilliant performance, and great to see her outside of Tim Burton‘s world.

For my money though, one of the most interesting transformations here is Anne Hathaway. I’ve enjoyed Hathaway in a lot of her roles growing up, all the way back to the Princess Diaries. At times she gets too much credit, and at other times not enough. It’s been a weird career, and someone really needs to feed the poor girl a sandwich. In between movies she frequently seems very pale into thin. Watching her in this self-centered, almost oblivious role is interesting. It almost feels like this is the culmination of her character from the Devil wears Prada. As if this is who she could’ve ultimately become had she stayed in Miranda Priestly‘s thrall, and it’s a fascinating mixture of high society with touches of girl Next door frankness. It’s a genuinely good role for Hathaway, and one of the better things that I’ve seen her do since the Devil wears Prada.

On the other hand we have Mindy Kaling and Sarah Paulson who are both really just doing their thing, blandly through the whole film. They’re good actresses, but they both feel like they’re not sure why they’re here. They each have one moment, one purpose, and then sleepwalk through the rest of the film.

They’re not the only ones sleepwalking, Sandra Bullock also doesn’t quite seem to understand how to play a role like this. She’s the lead, she’s the star, but at the same time she’s playing a bit of a villain. Bullock is excellent at what she does, but what she does is the relatable female lead… And this is more of an aloof role where she doesn’t seem entirely comfortable. As a result, she wanders through the movie, aimless and unsure.

The core of the Ocean films, has always been the easy back-and-forth between George Clooney and Brad Pitt. They try and replicate this with Bullock and Cate Blanchett, but Bullocks not sure what to do here, and Blanchett is simply not up for the task. She’s tough as nails and hard as diamond, with a handsome beauty that seems out of place in this role. The two are never convincing in the buddy comedy trope and every time that they’re on screen together, I find myself waiting for something else to happen… Eager to get to the next scene.

The disappointing thing here, is that this is a good idea. It’s a good concept with an A-list cast, but at the same time it’s trying very hard to be in Ocean’s Eleven movie. I think that ultimately does it a disservice. I love that they address why they’re creating a team of female con artists… “Men get noticed, and women don’t.” Whether you agree with that statement or not, with that one line I am ready to buy into the conceit and I am totally on board. It makes sense and it liberates it from the unintentionally sexist attempts at predominantly female casts like Ghostbusters or Supergirl. Nevertheless, shoehorning this in with clumsy cameos by Elliott Gould’s  Reuben and Shabo Qin’s Yen feels almost as forced as the scenes taking place at Danny Oceans grave. It also kicks the story off with a real drag, knowing that Ocean is dead… and so is the series. After all, these sort of sidequels never have a chance to become franchises themselves… especially when they’re as gimmicky as this. No, I think Ocean’s Eight would’ve been better served as an original story. And that’s really why it fails to satisfy for me.

On the other hand, it’s certainly better than ocean’s 12!

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