Diamonds and an Ocean’s Best Friends

The cool table is finally inviting you to hang with them. They don’t care about your race, your hips, or the way your hair swoops naturally to the left. The only rule is that no boys are allowed. Why? If you ask Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), boys attract too much attention. Okay fine, some do. But I find it hard to picture Sandra Bullock as a poster child for the invisible. Then again, if I were looking for a snatch and grab thief, I may not suspect that her immaculate ladies in ridiculously high shoes and dresses cinched in at the knees ran away with the goods.

Debbie Ocean is a member of the famous Ocean con family. Stealing feels more natural than paying for stuff so she proceeds at her leisure. After five years in jail, Debbie is out and ready for a new job, a big job, a job that she’s been meticulously planning for five long years. The mark is a necklace valued at if-you-have-to-ask-you-can’t-afford-it dollars. Her eye is on the prize, but she can’t do it alone. Debbie pulls in her old partner, Lou (Cate Blanchett), as well as the jeweler Amita (Mindy Kaling), the fence Tammy (Sarah Paulson), the pickpocket Constance (Awkwafina), the hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna), and the designer Rose (Helena Bonham Carter). Together they follow Debbie’s plan to infiltrate the Met Gala and steal a diamond necklace from under Daphne Kluger’s (Anne Hathaway) nose.

Now you’re probably better at math than I, but it looks like Debbie assembled a crew of seven. So why Ocean’s “Eight”? The eighth accomplice stays a mystery for as long as possible. There are side-players, sure, but they’re more like hired help than core members of the team. Debbie makes sure that her crew stays focused on their tasks by only telling them the need-to-know details. She runs a tight ship but I have to admit, if Sandra Bullock kept deflecting my questions with a knowing smile I’d let it be. It’s like asking Santa to spill the secrets of Christmas Eve.

The heist is an intricate operation. Everyone independently applies their skills to slip in and out of the Gala undetected. These beautiful criminals do not give a damn about anyone except each other and the final score. As soon as Debbie tells them what their share of the prize will be, every other commitment takes a back seat. The kids can wait. Mom can wait. That job sucked anyway. This is a rare opportunity to make female friends. Just like Ocean’s Eleven, each team member is an expert at what they do and is eager to follow the plan because life sounds a lot easier with $16 million in a secret offshore bank account.

The prep, the heist, the wrenches in the plan, even the ex-lover thrown unexpectedly into the picture, all mirror Ocean’s Eleven. It makes Ocean’s Eight feel more like a remake than a sequel. The biggest difference – aside from the obvious casting direction – are the missing twists and turns that made Ocean’s Eleven so edgy. Not to mention the cinematography to match. Ocean’s Eight feels a little more mainstream, like it’s riding the wave of its predecessor instead of setting a fresh tone. The team dynamics are equally strong, but the movie isn’t as inventive as Danny Ocean’s casino game.

Thankfully the comedy is still a major feature. Ocean’s Eight has a crew of oddballs who are ready to make us laugh. Helena Bonham Carter as Rose, the washed-up designer, is a total flake and wickedly funny. She’s one of the most instrumental drivers of the plan but it’s a wonder she can introduce herself without spilling the beans. If Rose isn’t leading the scene out of necessity, then she’s tucked away in the background sewing and trying not to panic. Every cast member nails their character in Ocean’s Eight, making it very hard to pick a favourite.

The cameos keep things interesting too. You never know who’s going to pop up next. The main stage is the Met Gala, after all, and it wouldn’t feel legit without waves of celebrities in fashion-forward gowns filling every corner. Ocean’s Eight is a light laugh and – here’s the obligatory line – a strong female movie. It really is. They don’t need a strappingly charismatic man to lead the way. They are – line again – supportive women who care about two things: a good-looking payoff and not going to jail. I’d happily watch Ocean’s Eight right after Ocean’s Eleven every other week on Sunday cable TV. There’s just the right amount of power, grace, and ridiculousness to make it a 7/10.

“Game on.”