“A ‘him’ gets noticed, a ‘her’ gets ignored. And for once we want to be ignored,” a pointed line in Ocean’s 8, which comes early on in a movie that absolutely celebrates femaleness while being entirely accessible whatever your gender. Not just a bit of feminist critique, this is actually an entirely logical justification of Debbie Ocean’s (Sandra Bullock) team requirements for her master plan to steal the jewels off the neck of megastar actress Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) at the Met Ball, a plan so deliciously audacious the money feels like a mere afterthought to the genius of the plan.
Though sequentially it sounds like a prequel, 8 follows on from Ocean’s 13 – Debbie is Danny Ocean’s (George Clooney) sister. Her brother, she’s told, has died, but whether she believes that or not is another story. Debbie’s been in the slammer for five years, just enough time to plan the ultimate heist, which will bring together a gang of immensely talented women, the most glamourous event of the year, boat loads of money and a spot of revenge to boot – and she’s really going to enjoy doing it.
Ocean’s 8 is all about the joy, a zippy, funny, fast-paced buddy movie celebrating a bunch of super-cool, fantastically dressed women being really cunning and brilliant – okay, the end might be criminal activity but you definitely get the sense these women could be incredibly successful careerists if they didn’t have a taste for danger.
As Debbie explains, they’re not doing the heist for the money and they’re not doing it for themselves, they’re doing it for the eight-year-old girl lying in bed dreaming she could one day be a criminal. A cute line but actually the movie absolutely deals in wish fulfillment – we really want to be one of the gang and hanging out with them, for the film’s one hour 50 minute run time is a joy.
Ocean’s 8 opens with a con, a bit of trickery involving very high end shoplifting that is so simple and so devious it’s almost crying out to be repeated in super-fancy department stores just for the thrill of it (I am not advocating stealing. Stealing is bad). It’s a great set up to introduce who Debbie Ocean really is – a woman so self possessed, assured and confident that she can get away with pretty much anything. And the team she puts together are no less compelling.
Cate Blanchett is Lou, Debbie’s old partner in crime, an achingly cool biker, bored running nightclub rackets. Mindy Kaling’s Amita is a jeweler sick of living with her mum, while Sarah Paulson’s Tammy is a family woman with a taste for the criminal. Rihanna is charismatic as hacker 9-Ball while rapper Awkwafina is fun and scrappy as pickpocket Constance, and Helena Bonham Carter’s dress designer Rose is suitably scatty (though Bonham Carter’s Irish accent isn’t entirely convincing).
In a way it’s a bit of a shame that a movie celebrating a gang of forceful females is directed by a man, but Gary Ross, who also made female-led YA movie The Hunger Games and who co-wrote the screenplay with Olivia Milch, does the group proud in terms of both characterisation and shooting style – the clothes and the jewelery are perved over, the women are not.
Once the gang’s together and the con is on – it’s a complicated plan full of twists and details that unfold as you’re watching. Clever and highly enjoyable though it is, by the third act the narrative does sadly fall apart. There are some pretty enormous plot holes going on there. But by this point you’re so much on the side of the crew that it’s easy to just go with it.
Ocean’s 8 is a fun, escapist summer heist movie which is very reminiscent of Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s 11, with all the wit, charm and cheekiness that came with it. It’s glossy feel-good escapism of the best kind with a massively positive portrayal of female friendships. This is the kind of movie we really don’t see often enough, a fun female-focused crime caper with decent levels of diversity where not once are any of them compromised or made safe by a romance.
It would be great if this film became a big success, it would be wonderful if it was followed up by an Ocean’s 9 and 10 and it would be amazing if studios started to cast women in a whole range of different movies and genres. Whether Ocean’s 8 will be part of a wave of change toward increasing diversity and gender parity remains to be seen, but either way it’s a sparkly, joyful, warm and witty delight. And it definitely shouldn’t be ignored.