It is passing strange that when well known Hollywood actresses are cast in a heist film about robbing jewellery from the Met Gala in New York, we are expected to interpret it as a female bonding version of the ‘Ocean’ trilogy; a sort of feminine version of how to be cool like men, assemble a gang of like minded women and rob an elite jewellery conglomerate like ‘Cartier’. But the truth is that when a spin off from a popular series is an identical female equivalent, it consciously invites comparison to the original, and falls woefully short.
‘Ocean’s Eight’ makes the heist look too easy. It’s a piece of cake, really. There is just one hitch in an elaborate and unlikely plan, which is then easily overcome. Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) hatches the plot while in prison. She is the sister of Danny (George Clooney in the trilogy), since deceased, and all she does in the movie is get together a motley group of ‘sisters’, some of whom appear completely dotty and incompetent. She gets them special invites to the Met Gala, and then arranges for them to pass on, like a relay team, a 150 million dollar ‘Cartier’ necklace from the neck of a fashion model, Daphne (Anne Hathaway), to the world outside.
It is inconceivable that a top ‘Cartier’ executive would take the word of one of the most eccentric of the heist team members, Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter), an out of work and bankrupt fashion designer, and believe that she is hired to dress a famous model like Daphne for the Gala, and needs her client to wear the necklace for the evening. Without even a background check on her credentials, the Frenchman rolls his r’s fussily and agrees to the outrageously risky proposal of this felon, who, it turns out, even owes the IRS money. The only condition he imposes is the need for two security personnel to accompany the model wherever she goes with the 150 million dollar rocks hanging, ripe for the taking, around her pretty neck.
To add to the sisterhood theme and ambience of the film, the men in the movie are presented as congenital idiots. When the robbery is discovered, with the women’s team still entrenched at the Gala, the men behave like headless chickens. With less apparent competence than Inspector Clouseau of ‘The Pink Panther’, the ‘Cartier' gentleman is relieved when it is announced that the necklace has been ‘found', after all. Naturally, it turns out to be a fake reproduction that the women have assembled, but he doesn’t even bother to check its authenticity until the next morning.
Only one actress in the film is convincing. She is Mindy Kaling, who plays an Indian jewellery maker called Amita. A crucial member of the team, she is the only one who appears competent in her role. With her knowledge of gemmology, she looks impressive as she expertly changes the structure of the stolen necklace in record time. The rest of the ladies amble about the Met Gala looking posh.
Precisely because the heist goes so smoothly, it fails to entertain and looks contrived. Everyone wins, the movie ends, and it is party time. The only relief is that without a twist in the plot, without at least one loser, it is going to be difficult to conceive of a sequel.