It’s only mid-June but Mindy Kaling is already having one hell of a year. Over the last several months, she gave birth to daughter Katherine, co-created and appeared on the NBC comedy “Champions” not long after wrapping up six seasons of “The Mindy Project,” made a splash on the big screen with “A Wrinkle in Time,” and is currently starring in “Ocean’s 8.”
The highly anticipated, female-led, Gary Ross-directed addition the “Ocean’s” franchise packs an entertaining, comical punch as long as you’re willing to suspend logic, something that hard-core fans of the original trilogy already know. “Ocean’s 8” earned a solid $41.5 million domestically, dominating the box office in its opening weekend. For Kaling, it’s yet another feather in her cap.
She plays Amita, an expert jeweler from Queens. Her work is slowed down because her mother is almost always telling Amita to find a husband. Things change for her when Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) recruits her for the heist she is planning: stealing a $150 million diamond necklace, adorned by unwitting mule and actress Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway), from the Met Gala.
Amita is just one of the seven, though. Debbie, aka the sister of “Ocean’s” trilogy lead Danny Ocean (George Clooney), has also recruited her old partner-in-crime Lou (Cate Blanchett), hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna), thief Constance (Awkwafina), profiteer Tammy (Sarah Paulson), and broke designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter).
They work together on Debbie’s concocted plan that was five years in the making, successfully pulling off the heist. It involves Amita hiding in a bathroom after Constance swipes the necklace off of Daphne’s neck and then, like the pro she is, dismantle it into smaller pieces of jewelry the rest of the women can wear as they walk out of the Met Gala.
Alright, fine, as far as cunning heists go, “Ocean’s 8” delivers a successful montage of how the women made it all happen. It’s glamorous because it involves fancy costumes and celebrity cameos from Waris Ahluwalia, Kim Kardashian, Gigi Hadid, Adriana Lima, and Katie Holmes. However, the actual details of the heist, including the plan to add something to Daphne’s food that makes her barf while Constance can steal the precious necklace is lazy writing.
Luckily, each character comes equipped with just the perfect skill and the perfect look to achieve their goal. Amita pretends to wash the dishes of the Gala guests so she can hide in the staff bathroom and do the deed before walking out in an absolutely stunning gold Naeem Khan-designed gown. Kaling posted that the dress was showcased at Arclight Cinemas.
Since it’s an ensemble movie with several great actresses (Hathaway is the MVP of “Ocean’s 8,” as are Blanchett’s many suits), it’s only natural that there is little to none backstory on some of the lesser-known but powerful actresses. Nine Ball (real name Leslie) isn’t as aloof as she seems because she has a sister she loves, Tammy is clearly not your average suburban mom, Constance is a natural hustler and supremely funny. It gives Rihanna, Paulson, and Awkwafina a chance to shine whenever they come on-screen.
As for our Amita, she clearly wants independence. Her introduction shows us that she’s being pressured by her mother to marry into a good Indian family as her sister did. Contrary to what her mother wants for her, Amita is shown enjoying her newfound riches in the closing moments of the film as she romances a white man while enjoying views of the Eiffel Tower.
Kaling is a delight in “Ocean’s 8,” bringing her effortless charm to the role. She’s funny and delivers one-liners like a champ, something she aced while playing Kelly Kapoor and Mindy Lahiri on “The Office” and “The Mindy Project.” She learned Hindi for a couple of conversational dialogues Amita shares with her mother early on. Unfortunately, that failed to have an impact and it would’ve seemed more realistic if they spoke in English. I guess it’s the thought that counts?
Was there too little of Amita in the film? I think so, but when there are eight women in the movie, it’s to be somewhat expected. Her work ends up being crucial in the actual heist itself, much like all of the women, and that parity is appreciated. Through “Ocean’s 8,” Kaling has put herself on the map once again. She is not slowing down. She’s currently shooting “Late Night,” for which she wrote the screenplay and will star in alongside Emma Thompson. It’s slated to release in 2019. She’s also working on a new show for Hulu, an adaptation of “Four Weddings and a Funeral.”
Kudos to “Ocean’s 8” for doing its part when it comes to casting women and women of color in a meaty, big-budget film. Even if said film doesn’t do full justice to the actress’ talents, it’s worth watching for the fun it provides.