“You are not doing this for me. You are not doing this for you. Somewhere out there is an 8-year-old girl dreaming of becoming a criminal. Do this for her.”
Thus does the master thief Debbie Ocean exhort her female partners in crime on the eve of their big jewelry heist in the director Gary Ross’s Ocean’s 8. It’s a cunning bit of narrative transposition. Because Debbie—played by Sandra Bullock—is of course really speaking to all the “girls” in the audience, whatever their ages might be. Because while few presumably dream of being actual criminals, who doesn’t dream of being effortlessly prepossessing, movie-star glamorous, and utterly in control? Not necessarily someone who would stage a daring robbery at the Met Gala; but someone who, if she so chose, could.
This is unfortunately about as close as Ross comes to integrating any meaningful gender insights into his film. (I’ll note one exception in a moment.) Ocean’s 8 is essentially a sex-swapped reboot of Ocean’s Eleven, and if the result is only a modestly diverting star-power delivery device—well, the Soderbergh–Clooney version wasn’t much more than that itself.
Like the prior movie, this one begins with its protagonist—Bullock’s Debbie is the sister of Clooney’s Danny Ocean—getting paroled from prison. (“If I were to be released,” she humbly tells the parole board, “I would just want the simple life.” Later, watching her don a designer gown and prepare to strut out the prison gates, a guard asks ironically, “The simple life?” She replies coyly: “I had five years to rehearse.”) Next—after a clever bout of high-end shoplifting and a luxury-hotel grift—comes the hooking up with an old partner, Lou (Cate Blanchett, in what is essentially the Brad Pitt role); then, the assembly of a team; and finally, the heist itself. Also, as before, there is an unnecessary and moderately tedious subplot involving an old flame (Richard Armitage) who works in the art world.