In the weeks leading up to the release of “Ocean’s 8,” the hype was building among audiences for what would hopefully be a revolutionary film for women in Hollywood. Directed by Gary Ross and led by a powerhouse all-female cast, it was marketed as a clever remake of the successful “Ocean’s” franchise that would be just as iconic as its predecessors.
It was going to be a badass heist film that would, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, be a shining example of improving representation of women in Hollywood. In some ways, it was worth all the anticipation. In many more ways, it was a frustrating disappointment.
The movie follows Debbie Ocean, the younger sister of George Clooney’s iconic character Danny Ocean, as she is released from prison after serving a five-year sentence for fraud. While behind bars, she’s been planning an elaborate and eerily detailed heist to steal a diamond Cartier necklace worth $150 million from The Met Gala.
She builds a team of women to pull off the scheme that seems impossible, and the subsequent series of events unfolds in a fashion similar to any other “Ocean’s” film or classic heist movie. Normally, that wouldn’t be anything negative. Yet it’s the ordinary, routine nature of “Ocean’s 8” that makes it an epic disappointment compared to the thrilling expectations set by its marketing campaign.
The film didn’t help itself even during its development. As the casting was gradually revealed along with the numerous cameos of celebrities like Anna Wintour and the Jenner sisters, the hype spread throughout the internet and sparked early anticipation for the film’s release.
This sort of marketing usually proves to be beneficial — when the movie is actually worth it. But the only thing supporting the anticipation of “Ocean’s 8” was the acting capability and overall star power of its cast. In theory, it would make sense for a movie with such incredible talent to be automatically good. But even the best actor can’t save a film from a doomed script.
For a film that was supposed to be a game-changer, “Ocean’s 8” did absolutely nothing to make itself worth its own hype. Gary Ross both directed and wrote the film, and the fact that he has earned three Academy Award nominations in the screenplay categories makes it reasonable to expect a complex, intriguing story.
But instead, “Ocean’s 8” exists with no conflict whatsoever, and leaves the audience waiting to be wooed until the credits start to roll. There was no shock factor, no “wow” factor and no real suspense, making it a rather bland experience when it had the potential to be fun. Perhaps that could be forgiven if it weren’t for the incredible talent that could have been utilized to make this film as incredible as it wanted to be.
The saving grace of “Ocean’s 8” is the powerhouse ensemble of women who do the best they can with the material that was handed to them. At the forefront of this effort was Sandra Bullock’s cunning and nuanced portrayal of Debbie Ocean, giving the character more depth than she was perhaps written with.
The other standout performance was Anne Hathaway as Daphne Kluger, the airheaded actress wearing the necklace. As someone who doesn’t engage heavily in the public Hollywood life, Hathaway perfectly captures the essence of everything that people love to hate about those in the entertainment industry.
Capping off the all-star cast are film favorites Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson and Helena Bonham Carter along with music personalities Rhianna and Awkwafina. These women might be known for different mediums and genres in the industry, but their chemistry is clear and the sisterhood that they build onscreen is the most enjoyable part of the movie.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the film’s failure is the fact that it could have proved so much for women in Hollywood. The timing couldn’t have been better; in the wake of the #MeToo movement, the film industry has faced increasing scrutiny for the way it treats and represents its actresses.
“Ocean’s 8” had the perfect opportunity to showcase the ability of women to perfectly lead a big ticket cinematic franchise that was initially dominated by men. It could have celebrated the range of some of the most talented women in the business, showcasing their ability to be incredibly comedic while still bringing dramatic depth to a character. But it did none of that. If anything, it might affirm the sexist beliefs of some who were hoping to see the movie fail.
It’s a situation that seems reminiscent of the 2016 remake of “Ghostbusters.” It was an iconic story being told by some of today’s most successful female comedians. Before it was even released, it was plagued by negative reviews pegging the film as a perfect example of feminists taking over Hollywood. These critics were determined to assist in its downfall.
There was hope that once it was released, the critics would be proven wrong. But ultimately, the film received only lukewarm praise from audiences and critics alike, and failed to live up to the expectations that it set for itself.
“Ocean’s 8” and “Ghostbusters” certainly weren’t the first films to rely on star power or nostalgia for ticket sales (it’s hard to forget “Valentine’s Day” and “New Year’s Eve”). But they certainly had more to lose. They thought that simply using talented actresses would solve the issue of representation in Hollywood and bring respect to the idea of female-led films.
The problem with that logic, however, is that talent alone won’t make a movie a hit. If women are ever going to win the war of representation and respect in Hollywood, it’s going to require stories that are complex and entertaining, not those that leave the audience confused or unsatisfied. Unfortunately, “Ocean’s 8” falls into the second category.
To be clear, this isn’t a film that deserves to be labeled as horrible. It was entertaining, and some might have thought that it was worth the rising price of movie tickets. But that’s an attitude that one would expect to have towards the latest installment of a buddy cop series starring b-list comedians. “Ocean’s 8” had so much potential, so much talent to be utilized. It could have been groundbreaking for the film industry, but instead “Ocean’s 8” played it safe and made itself forgettable.