Ocean's Eight could have been great, writes Megan Whelan, but it ends up just being good.
If you had five years, eight months and 12 days, what could you plan?
A really good menu? A fitness routine you'll never stick to? The first five chapters of the book you'll never actually write?
What about a jewel heist? In the most secure museum in the world? With the world's media watching? Sure.
It's hard to imagine a movie starring these eight women being bad, it has to be said. The combined star power of Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Rihanna et al, not to mention the charisma and talent, makes it seem like a sure-fire hit. And it almost is.
A spoiler-free synopsis: Debbie Ocean is the sister of Danny Ocean. She's in the family business, which is to say, crime. The film starts in the same way as the original Ocean's movie: with our hero pleading their case to a parole board, with a wink to the audience because of course we know that someone who can manage those hair extensions while inside can only be up to no good.
Before you know it, she's bedecked in designer outfits, and she has hooked up with her partner in crime from her pre-prison days. So far, so heist movie.
From there it follows the traditional script: the planning, the job, the aftermath, with enough twists along the way to keep the audience guessing, and the cast in one liners.
The female version of Ocean's 11 is Ocean's 8, because it takes less women to get the job done. pic.twitter.com/oMftrNCQ8N— lisa eastham (@itslisae) August 10, 2016
All is as it should be. The technology is impressive, the outfits amazing, the sets gorgeous. And the people are really ridiculously good looking. Debbie (Sandra Bullock) leads the crew, Lou (Cate Blanchett) is her good - though still criminal - shoulder angel.
They recruit fashion designer Rose (Helena Bonham-Carter) to dress fragile actress Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway), for the infamous Met Gala, and convince her to wear a $150 million necklace, which they'll steal, and then sassy jeweller (Mindy Kaling) will do her thing.
Weed-smoking 9 Ball (Rihanna) handles the tech, Constance (Awkwafina) is the pickpocket, and fence-turned-suburban-mom Tammy (Sarah Paulson) rounds out the eight.
Where the original Ocean's Eleven felt effortlessly, smugly, stylish, Eight feels brash, preposterous, 'blingy', like the necklace that's been locked in a vault for 50 years. In the costumes, that comes over amazingly (you're going to want every single outfit), but overall, it left me wanting more.
Everyone is so cool, the stakes never quite seem high enough. Our heroines quip themselves out of trouble at every turn, never quite letting the tension ramp up.
The inevitable revenge plot is of an annoyingly clichéd "woman scorned" variety, which, while entertaining, isn't as emotionally fulfilling as it could be.
Anne Hathaway is brilliant, and brilliantly funny, as an insecure, haughty actress. Mindy Kaling and Sarah Paulson are sadly wasted. Rihanna is exactly as cool as you'd want her to be. Sandra Bullock could do this with her eyes closed.
And Cate Blanchett. Never mind a jewel heist, giving her so little to do is the real crime. The actress who played a completely bonkers Hela in Thor: Ragnarok, or her Academy-nominated role in Carol, or even herself in a publicity interview is so under-used, you wonder what she could have done if she let loose.
And that's just it. Much has been made of the "all woman" Ocean's reboot. But in reality, this is the fourth movie in a franchise (no one ever mentioned the "all (almost) male" casts of the first three), and it has all the struggles of a fourth movie. Too much surface, not enough depth.
Ocean's Eight is fun, it's beautiful, there are cameos aplenty and an excellent amount of sass. But it all feels slightly restrained - and maybe a little fearful. But surely if the last couple of years have taught us anything, it's that movies led by women will sell. And they don't need to be carbon copies of movies starring men. Except if you think an audience won't believe women can be thieves, unless they're also wearing four inch heels.
Instead of doing something new, Ocean's Eight trods a well-worn red carpet. And with that cast? It should have been great, instead of just good.