Directed by Gary Ross (2018)
by Jaime Davis, The Fixer
I was 22 when Ocean's Eleven came out in 2001. I didn't think much of it at first - a remake? From Steven Soderbergh? Dude you better than all that! And who cares about remakes anyway except for he-devils like Michael Bay? It was summertime when it was released, and I was about to be a senior in film school. My family and I were on an annual summer vacation in Breckenridge, Colorado, and my best friend from college, Kathy, was with us. I was having a heckuva time in regular life. Depressed, lonely, drowning in a long-term relationship I couldn't swim my way out of. At the time, my after-graduation plan was to move in with my boyfriend and go to grad school. Get married. Life settled. Game over. Marriage was a foregone conclusion on the part of my bf and his family, yet no one really consulted me about it. I didn't yet understand or know how to put into words why I was so unhappy. Having come out three years ago (almost to the day)...now I see it very clearly. But in those days, the life staring me in the face felt so not mine, like I was watching it all happen to someone else, in very dark, very slow motion. I accepted it as is because I thought that's just what you do. That's just what I get.
This particular trip changed a lot of things for me. In the middle of it, Kathy told me she was moving to Los Angeles after graduation in May, and I should come with her. I hadn't considered moving to LA, no, not for one lil' second. Until the words hung in the air between us, suspended in anticipation. I had a way out. And boy did I take it. Looking back I was just running away, and maybe if I had stayed, married him, I would have figured some things out much sooner. But I don't regret the path that led me to the person I know, the person I am, today.
During this trip, my family, my dad's wife's extended family, me, Kathy, and my 13-year-old brother Max went to the movies. What movie could please such an array of ages and tastes? Ocean's Eleven, that's what. I was pretty much smitten from minute one - the trademark Soderbergh cool stark as an imprisoned Clooney sits before an unseen parole panel, claiming rehabilitation and pleading his case for release. Then, a be-tux-ed Cloones heading out of jail while the opening credits kick off, set to David Holmes' jazzy score. The playfulness of the movie is what I most responded to at the time...Brad Pitt and Clooney's chemistry-filled banter, Matt Damon's awkward everything, PITT EATING IN EVERY GD SCENE, Don Cheadle's accent, the title card in the end credits that reads "And introducing Julia Roberts as Tess." High on the decision to move to Los Angeles, giving the film thing a real go, Ocean's Eleven was like a beacon, a come-hither inspiring me to make movies, and the land of movies, my true home.
Ocean's 8 starts almost as an homage to the opening of Eleven. We've got Sandra Bullock in her best orange, explaining to a parole board why she just wants a simple life. Sure, Sandy, Sure. She heads out of prison all dolled up, not a penny to her name, much like her brother did way back when. Oh, right...cause Bullock plays Debbie Ocean, Danny's little sister. We learn pretty quickly that Danny passed away this year (though I'm praying each night for a crossover Ocean's 9 with a quelle surprise! alive and well Danny teaming up with sis to rob a bank in Switzerland or some shit.) Debbie is a woman who don't take no shit, and before we know it, she's back in Manhattan, having conned her way into a trés swank hotel room at the Plaza, not to mention free luxury shit from Barneys (or Bergdorf's? can't remember) and Burberry. She hooks up with her bestie Lou (my future wifey Cate Blanchett) and eats a buncha food (the scene of her scarfing food at Veselka - classic!). And by "hooks up" I mean, they meet up somewhere and she moves in with her. Boooorrrr-rrrinnngggggg. This movie would have been 287% better if they like, actually hooked up. And were in love. I was kinda wishin' hopin' prayin' thinkin' plannin' dreamin' for it, but sadly, no. My #1 wife Cate and #5 wife Sandy sadly stay Just Friends throughout the film.
The rest of the set-up will feel veryyyyy familiar to Ocean's fans and well, anyone who's seen the first installment of the Soderbergh franchise. Debbie proposes the scheme she's been plotting for the past five million years in prison to a badass Lou (we first meet her working behind the scenes in a downtown club, watering down bottles of what I believe to be vodka for VIP bottle service). Debbie and Badgal LouLou work out the kinks while assembling a crack team: Helena Bonham Carter as nearly impoverished fashion designer Rose Weil, Mindy Kaling as expert jeweler and oppressed daughter Amita, Rihanna as hacker Nine Ball, slick Awkwafina as Constance, and wife #3, Sarah Paulson, as fence Tammy, a suburban mom out of the game enticed back by the scale of the job. And oh what a job! They're gonna rob the Met gah-la (not gay-la), y'all. These bitches be fancy! And smart. And wily. And glamorous. And hilarious.
The set-up is fine and all, but the real fun doesn't really kick off until they start to get into the heist-y-ness of it all. Sure, there are some cute scenes leading up to the con, including an O-M-G cameo by Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Vogue, Anna Wintour. At first, we only glimpse the back of her head and I assumed it would just be a lookalike, but holy André Leon Talley, Anna Wintour is ACTUALLY IN THIS. For a second. But it's a brilliant gd second.
What I'm about to say though may shock some of you who know me. And I actuallyyyy can't believe I'm typing this right now...but...the best part of this movie is...*cough choke scream*, Anne Hathaway. There, I said it! I have a simultaneous appreciation and loathing for her...she always seems so fake to me in real life? Like the actress who would hug a fan so sweetly then ask her handler for hand sanitizer behind their back? That kinda bitch? And obvi, I DO NOT KNOW ANNE HATHAWAY IN REAL LIFE, so she's most likely just a normal human person trying to live her life like the rest of us, but with a heckin social life, more freakin money than gawd, and one of the best closets on the planet. Anyway, what I'm tryingggggg to say here is that Hathaway is very, very, very, very good in this. She plays self-obsessed Hollywood star Daphne Kluger just as you'd expect, but in a way that is witty, joyful, sly, and sexy as all get out.
The whole of Ocean's 8 plays out much like you'd expect it to, with its nods to Soderbergh-style editing, but on a much slicker scale. It's definitely a fun good times romp with your best not-in-real-life gal pals, but it's lacking the playful banter and overall cast chemistry found in the "original" Soderbergh Ocean's installments. There isn't much else to complain about except for a bit of a slow start - altogether a solid take on the all-female reboot becoming de rigueur in Hollywood these days. Hopefully Debbie and Lou et. al. are here to stay for a couple more installments (with or without good 'ol Cloones) - I know 2001-era Jaime would have enjoyed this one too, but maybe not as much.