Movie Review: An exquisite corpse of a caper comedy — Ocean’s 8″

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“Seabiscuit” director Gary Ross takes on a clothes-horse caper comedy and finds the glass slipper doesn’t fit in “Ocean’s 8,” a distaff spin on the “Ocean’s 11” movies.

A make-work project for generations of Hollywood women and female fashion celebrities, it is pristine in its visuals  — mainly closeups of the Oscar winners and other great beauties of its cast — precise in its caper, and utterly bloodless in execution.

Who you gonna call? “Ghost Bustiers.”

The odd funny moment is like catching a hair out of place, makeup (and attendant cosmetic augmentation) that isn’t perfect or a character with any edge at all.

It’s simply not allowed, darling.

Sandra Bullock is Danny Ocean’s less careful con artist/thief sister, the one who’s been in prison for the better part of six years. Danny’s dead, one and all bemoan, especially Ruben (Elliott Gould) who meets Deborah Ocean at the grave of Danny (George Clooney) when she gets out.

As with many a caper comedy, Deborah has spent her years in stir plotting a heist — and getting the best hair, makeup and collagen America’s prison system can provide. Apparently.

She hustles her way through Berdorf Goodman’s, stealing perfume and makeup, cons a hotel room out of — The Plaza, was it? No? — and reconnects with her butch bombshell “partner” (Cate Blanchett), saving her from a life of watering down vodka for the clubs she services.

They need a team — a fence (Sarah Paulson) trapped in upper middle class suburban hell, a hacker (Rihanna, in huge hair and huger knit hair-covering), a pickpocket (the normally hilarious Awkwafina), a jeweler (Mindy Kaling) desperate to get out of working for her “Why aren’t you MARRIED?” Indian mother. They enlist a desperate, broke and fallen-from-favor Irish fashion designer (Helena Bonham Carter).

They have a mark, a vain, insecure style icon (Anne Hathaway) whom they can trick into using the designer. And they have a prize, a six pound diamond Cartier necklace, The Toussaint, never taken out except by the insistent and insanely Internet famous, and only with body guards all around.

These are the best scenes in the movie, brisk recruitment of the accomplished, the desperate and the female. NO MEN here, Deborah insists, “Not a HIM.” She has her reasons. Not interesting ones, but she has her reasons.

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The caper itself, set at the “most exclusive party invitation in America,” the Met Gala, is a perfunctory affair, lots of necklace-passing, split-second timing and Vogue Porn, complete with stunning Oscar winners and a Grammy winner in gorgeous dresses and cameos from the likes of Anna Wintour and Kim Kardashian.

Cameos are big here. Look for Marlo Thomas and Elizabeth Ashley and Dakota Fanning and whoever. Unfortunately, things like mystery, edgy characters and a compelling villain were forgotten. Seriously, nobody wanted to play the “bad guy,” the hateful one we root against? Hathaway would make a great mean girl grown up. Not here.

Even the investigator on their trail is the feminized, edge-free talk show limey James Corden.

But the ladies are, to a one, stunning. Carter, slinging an Irish accent but switching to French and playing perplexed and desperate, stands out. Bullock has the Clooney role — cool and poker-faced. Unfortunately, that’s all she’s really up for these days — roles limited by the inexpressive but perfect profile she can serve up, thanks to modern cosmetic science.

At least she gets to show off her fluent German. The banter has no snap, no crackle, no Clooney, Pitt and Damon to make it work. Even the recruitment bits are retreads of “I might have something for you,” and “Can I have my watch back?” when the partners meet the pickpocket.

Paulson’s Tami explaining “what Mommy’s doing” with her “special friends” by phone point in a promising direction, Awkwafina’s slangy, streetwise contrast with the slick, smooth comfy-with-the-rich Queens of this Underworld was another.

But even Blanchett and the comically gifted Hathaway are just models for the costumes, the hair stylists who are the real anti-heroines here.

I was perfectly tolerant of “8,” cute and empty as it was, up until the shoehorned-in third act “twists,” which make little sense and suck the faint zephyr of wind out of the film’s sails.

All I could think of was, all this obvious facial filler — and yeah, it’s a brutal business for women, who cannot afford to age…at ALL — and they’ve made a movie that’s all cinematic filler.

“Oceans” is just like that “Ghost Busters” remake. An empowering, “Sure, we can do that” comedy.” Cute. Just not funny.

1half-star

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language, drug use, and some suggestive content

Cast: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Rihanna, Awkwafina, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, James Corden

Credits:Directed by Gary Ross, script by Gary Ross and Olivia Milch. A Warner Brothers release.

Running time: 1:50

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6 Responses to Movie Review: An exquisite corpse of a caper comedy — Ocean’s 8″

  1. Just by mentioning Ghostbusters in your review…tells me you have no idea what you’re talking about.

  2. DoBetter says:

    You are too preoccupied with their looks, mentioning them multiple times. Who gives a shit if Sandra has had some filler? You should be critiquing the film, not an actress’s appearance. Sandra having filler has nothing to do with the quality of the film, yet you seem rather fixated on it. How about you post a picture of yourself so we can critique your looks instead of your work, like you did to Sandra? Do you regularly critique men’s appearance in the films you review or is that luxury reserved for women?

    • How about “She looks like Michael Jackson in the parole hearing opening?” A comment from a friend on Facebook. Her poker-faced to stone-faced transition anchors the picture. It calls attention to itself. She’s the star, it’s her vehicle and she set the tone. Had director approval. If she cannot physically crack a smile, it matters. And acting as if I’m the only reviewer to note this as a shortcoming suggests you need to wander Metacritic more widely before popping off.

    • “How about you post a picture of yourself so we can critique your looks instead of your work, like you did to Sandra?”
      Silly question, Sandra works as an actress, being looked at is her job. Being read is a critic’s job.

      • My picture is posted on the About.me link on the home page. As is my real name. And you, my trolling not-as-anonymous-as-you-think friend, like the earlier commenter, are ignoring the repeated references IN THE REVIEW to how gorgeous everybody looks and is dressed and photographed in the movie. Kind of what Bullock ensured that the movie was about — a makeover/dress-up version of “Ocean’s.” Blanchett and Bonham Carter had the same collagen treatments to roll back the clock as Bullock. But they stopped at some point. Bullock has so altered her appearance, like Mickey Rourke, like Renee Zellweger, like Michael Jackson, as to make her face inexpressive. And that is fair game. Impedes her acting. Don’t be so obtuse.

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