Ocean's 8 (2018)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on June 10, 2018 @ tonymacklin.net.

Genuine, memorable feel-good movies are rare.

Ocean's 8 isn't one of them. It could been, and perhaps should be. But it's simply a rote, ordinary, by the numbers piece of shtick.

One might have be looking forward to seeing Ocean's 8, especially because it's co-written and directed by Gary Ross.

Ross contributed to two classic feel-good movies. He was a creative force in Big (1988) and ten years later in Pleasantville (1998). Ocean's 8 comes on the 30th anniversary of Big and the 20th anniversary of Pleasantville. But it's a hollow reminder of the previous work.

Ross gets along well with women. He wrote the screenplay for Big - also credited to Anne Spielberg, Steven's sister. Big was directed by Penny Marshall. And Ross wrote the screenplay and directed Pleasantville.

Ocean's 8 should be ideal for Ross, who created memorable charm in both his previous efforts of fanciful yet credible entertainment. His vision was lightly ironic but delightfully imaginative. But his best quality may have been charm.

Ocean's 8 is charmless.

The opening scene of Ocean's 8 is disappointing and sets a tone. It has Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) sitting at a table talking to an out of camera range parole official. Ross thinks focusing on her face with her talking is enough. It's slack filmmaking. The dialogue is routine, and the imagery is negligible.

In a lot of the film, Ross counts on close-ups accompanied by throbbing music for his effects. Co-producer and co-writer Olivia Milch in her first studio feature is co-responsible for the forgettable dialogue. Olivia is the daughter of David Milch, creator of television's NYPD Blue and Deadwood. But writing is not her forte.

Sandra Bullock makes one yearn for Julia Roberts. Bullock has little range, and makes the least of it. See Bullock drink from a cup, see Bullock spit out mouthwash, see Bullock eat a hotdog. Okay.

But the characterization is so skimpy that the actresses have little to work with. Anne Hathaway gleams as Daphne, a Hollywood star, and Helena Bonham Carter works hardest to give her character some individuality as the out-of-date fashion designer, and she should get some regard for her acting efforts.

Major talent Cate Blanchett goes through the motions as Lou, Debbie's friend and colleague in crime. But almost anyone could have filled the undemanding role.

A sequence that should be bold and creative is when Debbie and Lou recruit the other women - Rose (Helena Bonham Carter), Amita (Mindy Kaling), Tammy (Sarah Paulson), Nine Ball (Rihanna), and Constance (Awkwafina). It should have spirit and creativity. It slogs along with nary a memorable line of dialogue.

In Ocean's 8, two lines of dialogue perhaps are relevant. Lou (Cate) says about Rose (Helena), "She was big in the '90s."

Daphne (Hathaway) says to Rose, "It's great, but it's tired."

But over-all, Ocean's 8 is one of those 2018 specialties, in which writing doesn't matter.

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