Posted by Sreemoyee Mukherjee
Ocean’s 8, released on 8th June 2018, directed by Gary Ross is a star-studded sky shot through a dirty skylight. In truth, if someone sat down and compared the number of all-women heist movies made in Hollywood, it would be measly compared to the ones staring suave male-leads. So, it could be considered progress that they finally made a film with such explosive potential.
The plot, written by Gary Ross (also the man responsible for Hunger Games) with some help from Olivia Milch and Jack Russell is pretty perfect. But here lies the catch – it is in fact, so absolutely perfect that it makes you doubt its authenticity.
As of July 23, 2018, the film has grossed $263.4 million worldwide versus the 70$ million dollars it took to make and it isn’t bad as far as a heist film goes. (Never mind that they basically just did a switcheroo on Ocean’s 11 – right down to Cate Blanchett’s Brad Pitt role.)
As entertainment it is lukewarm at best though, which would have been okay – if only it hadn’t been made lukewarm deliberately. It was as if it was a film aspiring to be mediocre. As if even with its brilliant cast, it was trying really hard to not be as good as the original Ocean’s Trilogy.
For starters – everything works out for the team. They have zero crisis moments. Debbie Ocean plans her heist while in prison, and her plan is apparently so flawless that nothing goes wrong at all – and that sounds more like a utopian fantasy than the usual Ocean’s thriller. There is something so oddly wrong with the lack of crisis and backstabbing that it actually stuck in my head till I could put a finger on it. The sheer lack of tight spots makes it look like Ross was afraid of getting his high-profile women dirty.
even with its brilliant cast, ocean’s 8 was trying really hard to not be as good as the original Ocean’s Trilogy.
They put their star studded cast on a pedestal, and these wonderful actors just strutted out of the film in high heels feeling empowered. Gee, thanks.
Now, I am not saying women cannot pull off a heist without getting into trouble, what I am saying is that the film makes everything look easy, easier than it possibly is. Think of any other Ocean’s movie – the men get pushed back a lot of times, they fight between themselves, they get stabbed in the back, they have tight spots that help in character formation. They almost fail and then when they succeed, they pull off a heist of a lifetime.
There is no such moment in Ocean’s 8. Their scariest villain is an insurance investigator, who lets Debbie off the hook because of her family’s reputation. The film is all smooth sailing, all bed of roses; giving the viewer this inane sense of dissatisfaction.
This would be okay, if we could forget for two hours that in reality, women actually have it harder than men. Unfortunately, we cannot, and so it is a tad annoying when the storyline is so unrealistic. Women have to fight twice as hard for just about everything, so I have no idea how they came up with a story where stealing 150 million dollars’ worth of jewels suddenly became easy for them.
There was a line in the film that stuck on- “Men get noticed, women don’t. For once we don’t want to get noticed.” That seemed to be Ocean’s 8’s mantra.
It is an explosively feminist concept that no one will notice. No one will notice because it is not exciting, thrilling, or even real. Since it won’t get noticed, Hollywood can again go back to making thrillers where women are the sexy side-kicks and men can make decisions again. Phew, what a relief.
The sheer lack of tight spots makes it look like Ross was afraid of getting his high-profile women dirty.
It is sloppy storytelling, a poor plot line, a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am experience. Think of it like this – someone made an American Pie, only it is about girls and not boys and the girls never get caught with their pants down. They just have orgasm after orgasm in a beautiful happily ever after. Ocean’s 8 is that failed American Pie for women.
Debbie Ocean wanted to steal jewels because that is what she was good at. However, since the film ended with her sitting in front of Danny’s plaque telling her absent brother that he would have loved it, it felt more like a little sister trying to impress big brother Danny Ocean. Somehow they managed to make a film with 8 strong female leads about an absent white male. Danny Ocean’s presence was a hovering spectre of standard to which Sandra Bullock’s Debbie Ocean had to live up to, and that perhaps is the saddest part of the entire film.
After all this time, it is disappointing to say the least, that Hollywood got feminism so damn wrong again.
Making a feminist movie isn’t that hard – just don’t gender your characters. Which reminds me – would this film pass the Bechdel Test? (The Bechdel Test, thought of by Alison Bechdel in her comic series Dykes to Watch Out For, is an unscientific hypothesis about fiction that a piece of literature could be considered feminist if two women had at least one conversation about something other than a man. It was a ridiculous test, made even more ridiculous by the sheer number of films that failed to pass it).
If I exclude all the dialogues that were exclusive instructions for the heist, every conversation between two female characters involved a man. Danny Ocean’s ghost, the revenge lover, even a random Tinder date got to be the absent phallus-shaped point of interest in a film about women.
Also, whatever effort the film made into creating a super-team of women, it certainly made no effort to not be stereotypical at all. Of course, the one South Asian girl (Mindy Kaling) has an annoying mother who just wants her to get married, and the other Asian girl (Awqwafina) is a street pick pocket. The woman of colour (Rihanna) has a shady background and constantly smokes weed, while the white housewife (Sarah Paulson) has secrets in the garage and makes smoothies. Finally, the white authoritative woman (Sandra Bullock) whose brother is a legend, calls the shots.
Anne Hathaway’s Daphne has been hailed for being a critique of Hollywood actors’ self-absorbed routine – or what tabloid journalism perceives as a female actor’s behaviour. It is a pity that the most nuanced role, and insightful writing has been devoted to the woman playing the victim, a service that quite frankly could have been extended to all seven other women.
Finally, let us not forget the black leather jacket biker Lou (Cate Blanchett) – without family or emotions and an attachment to Debbie. Does it sound like she is the typical lesbian best friend trope? Never would have guessed.
Somehow they managed to make a film with 8 strong female leads about an absent white male.
Ocean’s 8 could have been a gem, a feel good film, a brilliant beginning to women’s heist movies. Then it became a people-pleasing joke. They took the best female actors in the industry, and gave them no challenge at all.
The only character with an ounce of nuance is perhaps Helena Bonham Carter’s Rose Weil, but even then, she is made more as a humour piece because of her constant anxiety, nervous-artist persona. (Side note – is the anxious, mentally unstable character the new ‘Gay Best Friend’ in Hollywood? Now that it is politically incorrect to give stock humour roles to queer characters – do the mentally ill become the butt of the jokes? )
I know I should be glad that this film was made, we have to start somewhere, I am being too harsh and critical, feminists ruin all the fun etc., etc. But really, haven’t we settled for mediocre pseudo feminist movies for long enough?
Its 2018, maybe we should stop saying it isn’t that bad, and start expecting more from our society. We need to stop settling, because we sure as hell deserve better, but more importantly – the 8-year-old girl lying in bed and dreaming of becoming a criminal, deserves better.
So, yes Ocean’s 8 is lazy writing and a consolation prize, and a disservice to all the brilliant women who acted in it.
Sreemoyee loves reading and deconstructs irresponsible pop-culture and waves it about till people pay attention to the structural violence ingrained in it. She thinks her love of fries, and her undergraduate degree in Literature are all privileges she is fortunate to have. She can be followed on Facebook.
Featured Image Source: The Culture Concept