Ocean’s 8 (2018)

Your English teacher was so wrong when she said “i before e, except after c or when sounding like ay as in neighbor and weigh”. She obviously wasn’t counting on the feisty female heist in Ocean’s 8.

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I was worried there would be annoying, unsubtle feminist messaging throughout, but there was only one scene where characters talked about men per se. Thank goodness someone realized there’d be no point in making a movie about a bunch of female thieves only to have them talk about men the whole time.

Clearly the writing and/or casting was done with diversity in mind: there is a black character, an Indian character (played by an actress I now recognize from A Wrinkle in Time), and an Asian character in addition to the several Caucasians, one of whom sounds Irish and one of whom speaks German in several scenes. Although Ocean’s 8 is a much higher-quality production, I’m reminded of the awkward parody Superfast! which gave its ensemble’s token characters the literal names “Rapper Cameo”, “Model Turned Actress” and “Cool Asian Guy”.

The movie had two problems, neither of which I was expecting.

One problem was that the protagonist is introduced as a skilled shoplifter. An elaborate plan to steal millions of dollars’ worth of jewels is something I don’t have a problem with, since it’s obviously fantasy. Shoplifting is, however, both real and problematic. I don’t admire people who shoplift in real life, so I don’t really want to be encouraged to admire a shoplifter on screen. I mean, yes, the character comes across as clever, but… I don’t know. It just doesn’t sit right with me.

When giving her team a pep talk, Debbie says something along the lines of “Let’s not do this for us. Somewhere out there is an eight-year-old girl who dreams of becoming a criminal. Let’s do this for her.” Maybe that was funnier than the shoplifting, but… crime is bad, y’all!

The other problem was that although the caper was exciting, and there were lots of gratifying chuckles, there didn’t ever seem to be any serious obstacles. There were little stumbling blocks along the way, but each one was overcome after a moment of panic too brief to allow the tension to build.

See below for a list of reviews as well as a plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

My Beat Sheet for Ocean’s 8

Opening Image
Debbie Ocean is convincing a parole officer that she just wants to lead a simple life. Ha. Really she wants to commit the perfect crime. To show up her “dead” brother, the thief Danny Ocean from the preceding film trilogy.

Debbie steals a bunch of stuff apparently by attempting to return it, and freeloads a luxury hotel room. Using a shiv she made, she threatens her ex, who framed her for some kind of art fraud and got her sent to prison.

Catalyst / Debate / Break into Two
Debbie contacts her friend Lou and tries to convince her to participate in the grand scheme she planned during the five years she spent behind bars. She wants to steal a six-pound diamond necklace by getting a fashion designer to request it from Cartier for a celebrity to wear to the upcoming gala at the Met.

B Story / Fun and Games
(1) Debbie and (2) Lou need help. It’s time to collect the whole set!

First they have to get a (3) designer and a (4) celebrity on board. They choose a celebrity, then they find a designer who’s in debt and willing to cooperate, then they manipulate the celebrity into choosing that designer.

They try to hire a Russian (5) hacker but get a smoking, dreadlocked African-American woman instead. They call in a soccer mom to be their (6) fence. They call in an Indian-American woman who’s a (7) jeweler. They call in an Asian-American woman good at sleight-of-hand because they need a (8) pickpocket.

The designer and the jeweler convince Cartier to show them the necklace. The designer uses special glasses to make a 3D scan that is used to produce a substitute necklace.

The team plants an artwork in the museum to trigger a security system review, then the hacker adjusts the cameras near the toilets to create a blind spot.

The soccer mom goes to work for the event planning company to find out the gala seating plan and to get another member of the team on board in the kitchen as a nutritionist.

The team sets the celebrity up with Debbie’s ex as her date to the gala.

Lou realizes Debbie is intending to frame her ex. With revenge as a motive, the scheme will probably fail. Of course, if it succeeds, it’ll be an even bigger success…

Bad Guys Close In
The hacker’s little sister is consulted at the last minute when it turns out the necklace cannot be removed without a special magnetic device.

The celebrity eats the vomit-inducing soup a little too fast, but still makes it to the women’s toilet as planned, and the necklace’s two-man security detail has to wait in the hallway. The pickpocket removes the necklace while the celebrity is vomiting and plants it on an unsuspecting busboy. The busboy inconveniently stops in the hallway to chat with a friend, but he’s shuffled along pretty soon. The necklace is recovered in the kitchen by the jeweler, who locks herself in a well-equipped toilet room to dismantle it.

The vomiting stops, the absence of necklace is noticed, and the museum goes on lockdown. The jeweler in the kitchen’s toilet is almost found. The fake necklace is “discovered” in a shallow decorative pool. The pieces of jewellery made from the real necklace are distributed to the thieves, who wear them and walk out, but not before Debbie plants one piece on her ex.

Debbie and Lou hire four actresses to sell the reconstituted jewellery. A Cartier representative gets the necklace back and immediately realizes it’s fake. He calls in an insurance fraud investigator who interviews people, including the clueless busboy and the celebrity.

All Is Lost / Dark Night of the Soul
The insurance investigator thinks Debbie had something to do with the theft because he knew Danny Ocean. The celebrity comes to the hideout and tells the team she knows what they did, because she’s not as stupid as she looks. (There’s no dramatic failure, sadness, or twist anywhere here. They never almost get caught or turned in. The story just keeps rolling smoothly along…)

Break into Three
The celebrity agrees to help finish framing the ex. The insurance investigator also agrees, when bribed. The money from the sale of the parts of the necklace isn’t needed because… the heist team stole a bunch of other jewels!

How did they steal the other jewels? The theft of the necklace was just a distraction to clear the jewelry exhibit at the museum! The team got the jewels using a circus guy hanging from the ceiling to avoid the lasers, a selfie stick used to trick the cameras, and a toy submarine to transport the stuff across the decorative pools of water in the room. The ex is definitively implicated after money from the sale of the parts of the necklace is deposited in his account, to which Debbie previously gained access.

Each member of the team is living the dream, whatever that dream is, because apparently crime pays—and apparently they all got their millions in cash in non-sequential bills or something because somehow they don’t get in trouble for being suddenly rich. Maybe the sequel will explain how they laundered the money.

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I wasn’t very interested in the glamor, but the slick outfits and the star power are what people seem most impressed by. (I still don’t know how to pronounce gala. There are three different possibilities for that first “a”.)

  • Vox: “It never pretends to be anything more than what it is: a breezy summer movie with eight fun antiheroines worth rooting for….Ocean’s 8’s central heist, its twists, and its “villain” never feel like they’re a challenge for this gang of eight.”
  • Hollywood Reporter: “You just start to feel starved for a movie with conflict, suspense and a little heart.”
  • Variety: “It takes the bad karma that clung — unfairly — to the “Ghostbusters” remake and leaves it out in the trash….”
  • Vanity Fair: “There’s no disaster here, no regrettable misfire to be chagrined about. Phew. That said, I do wish Ocean’s 8 were a little more than fun.”
  • Digital Spy: “What the film lacks is a real sense of peril. In portraying its cast as the most competent women in the business, they become too competent, and can do little wrong.”
  • Roger Ebert: “Hathaway is the film’s MVP. What she’s doing here is nothing short of inspired, controlled lunacy. She’s an actress playing an actress.”

Speculation about a Sequel (Ocean’s 9?)

With zero data to back me up, I assume that this movie is called “Ocean’s 8” and not “Ocean’s 10” because someone had the idea of making another trilogy: Ocean’s 8, Ocean’s 9 and Ocean’s 10. However, I’m not sure this one made enough money for the franchise to continue.

Remembering the other Oceans

Wow, they were longer ago than I would have guessed. Anyone else feel old?

Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
George Clooney’s character Danny Ocean and some buddies rob three casinos in Las Vegas.

Ocean’s Twelve (2004)
Danny and some buddies steal a really expensive egg in Europe.

Ocean’s Thirteen (2007)
Danny and some buddies take vengeance by bankrupting a Las Vegas hotel/casino.

Hm. It seems Ocean’s Eleven is a reboot of Ocean’s 11 (1960). That makes me feel less old.

If you like caper movies, you might like the stage-magician-themed Now You See Me and its 2016 sequel, which bears the remarkably pedestrian title Now You See Me 2.