HEADLINES:
May 25 2020
‘Ocean's 8’ review: These boots are made for crowd pleasing
23 June 2018

The templated and unambitious heist comedy is redeemed by its women – and the Met Gala

When a group of women congregate for a heist, what would they target? Obviously a fashion gala, insists Gary Ross’ Ocean’s 8. “Because banks are too boring,” says Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), explaining her master plan to her partner in crime, Lou (Cate Blanchett), on the streets of Manhattan. It’s certainly the lowest hanging fruit when you think of an all-female reboot of a male-dominate franchise, but ultimately, it’s the predictable premise that makes this film enjoyable. Not only because women seem like insiders in the Met Gala universe (“Can we just go to this?” says Mindy Kaling, “Do we have to steal stuff?”), but also because it provides for a meta experience when you see Bullock’s gang watch footage from the 2016 documentary The First Monday in May to get acquainted with the event, and know that many of them were there on that very carpet, donning Chinese-inspired fashion.

Ocean's 8
  • Director: Gary Ross
  • Cast: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, Awkwafina.
  • Story line: Debbie Ocean plans to rob the Met Gala with her all-woman gang

The fancy New York gala (‘gah-la’, as one of the Vogue employees corrects Sarah Paulson), is probably the most exclusive and high-profile party in America. Considering that, you’ll spot a slew of cameos – from Anna Wintour (of course) to Serena Williams to the Kardashians – high fashion gowns, designer stilettos, brand placements, but, unfortunately, not a security system that is thrilling enough for a heist film. Consider this: Rihanna, who plays a pothead hacker, extracts crucial information from a museum official by sending photos of cute puppies on his computer. There’s no plot-twist we haven’t seen before, and one can easily draw parallels to plenty of heist films – both in narrative and nuance.

The unambitious, templated and safe approach taken by the film’s male director, Gary Ross, is salvaged by its women. Although none of them manage to shine through (barring Anne Hathaway as a vacuous celebrity), their camaraderie evokes ample laughter. Awkwafina demanding a metro card before the heist or teaching Kaling how to use Tinder deserves its own TV show. Sporadically, there’s also some mild social commentary. “A him gets noticed but a her gets ignored, and for once, we want to be ignored,” says Bullock, explaining why she took only women on-board for the robbery. But the film often falls into the same trap it seeks to mock. At some point we discover, a jilted boyfriend to be the motivation behind Bullock’s magnum opus. When it’s not about men, why is it still about men?

It’s always a pleasure to see diversity – as gimmicky as it may be – in any mainstream Hollywood film. Despite all the androgynous energy surrounding Blanchett, we can’t clearly tell if she is lesbian. As for racial diversity, we have brown (Kaling), black (Rihanna) and Asian (Awkwafina). But they are also: a small-time jewellery maker who lives with her mother, a broke hacker and pickpocket, respectively. Fortunately, the Asian isn’t a tech geek and the black person isn’t a petty thief, but neither of them are white to get easy access into the museum gala. While it’s the Caucasian ladies (except Blanchett) glam up and assume different roles at the party, the diversity quota additions are working in the kitchen, waitressing and running a kebab truck outside the museum. They do eventually slip into gowns, but too little, too late. “Somewhere out there, there’s an eight-year-old girl wanting to be a criminal. Do this for her,” says Bullock to her gang. If Ocean’s 8 is pushing for rebellion – even against traditional comedies – it’s not anarchic enough.

 

 

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