As I left an Ocean’s 8 screening last week, smiling like a giddy fool in love, I overheard the two men behind me discussing how much they had hated it. Conversely, I wanted to watch every deleted scene and the entire blooper reel. I wanted to see the fan art and read the fan fic.
Because it is just So. Much. Fun. to walk into a cinema with a whole heap of goodwill and throw yourself at the mercy of these beautiful, deplorable women endearing you to their no-good plight. It is fun to watch talented actresses play cool characters, none of whom get tortured or murdered. It’s fun to buy into the zany plot and things going smoothly for our anti-heroines, because heist movies are supposed to be like cartoons and women are just… good at stuff!
And fun being had, by and for women, is seriously underrated.
If you enjoy any of the following, you will find something to love in this film: men being totally superfluous, women getting shit done, Rihanna, irony, velvet trouser suits, Anne Hathaway’s clavicle, the Met Gala/mocking the Met Gala, bejewelled jumpsuits, fringes, sexual tension and the idea that there is a WhatsApp group containing both Rihanna and Helena Bonham Carter. FFS, who cares about a plot hole when this is a movie in which Cate Blanchett has Debbie Harry hair, Mick Jagger’s wardrobe and the magnetic sexual energy of Kate McKinnon licking that gun in Ghostbusters?
Sure, there are a few missteps – it does somehow manage to be one of the gayest films of the year (yes, in the year of Love, Simon and 120 BPM), without confirming at any point that anyone in it is actually gay. Which is kind of a shame and, some would say, a cop-out. But I defy anyone not to conclude that Sandy B and Cate are the happiest and most mutually sexually satisfied couple on the planet. If people want to be snarky about anything, an insufferable James Corden is right there in the film’s final third to focus their energies on (if they had to cast a man for his role, it should been Dwayne Johnson).
Recently, I reviewed Nothing Like A Dame, a film in which Dames Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright and Eileen Atkins sit around in an English country garden and chat about their lives. Ocean’s 8 gave me the same sort of thrill – it’s just bloody lovely to watch multiple women interacting on screen together.
The idea that we (and they) would be better off with individual movies is a desire to pull this girl gang apart, condemning them once again to being the only woman on a set of men
The Ocean’s 8 crew of actresses includes bonafide movie stars, crossover artists, awards-season darlings, cult favourites and newcomers but, until now, they had barely crossed paths other than on the red carpet – Sandra Bullock had never worked with any of these women before.
And yet film critic Richard Brody wrote: “All of the actresses in Ocean’s 8 need movies of their own, in which they can give free rein to their experiences, their talents, and their points of view.”
How spectacularly he missed the point (although his weird optimism about how much autonomy Hollywood grants its leading actresses is intriguing). We’ve seen movies starring a number of these actresses before; what we don’t get to see are movies where they are all in it together.
The idea that we (and they) would be better off with individual movies is nothing more than a desire to pull this girl gang apart, isolating them and condemning them once again to being the only woman on a set of men.
There is a reason that so many people are fantasy-casting their own Ocean’s 8 line-ups and it isn’t out of an undying love for the franchise – it’s because it is exhilarating and rare to see all or majority women casts on screen. Those people calling for a version with Christine Baranski or Thandie Newton or Tessa (or Emma) Thompson aren’t asking for another literal remake – they just want more films of this ilk, where multiple women are blazing across the screen, playing characters that excel themselves with little to no romantic motivation.
Ocean’s 8 felt like a massive wink of an in-joke to women watching – one I only wish they had taken further by having Bullock and Blanchett’s characters meet in the department store at the beginning, in a callback to Carol.
My response to Ocean’s 8, compared with the grumpy men behind me, confirmed what I knew going in: it’s not for them – it’s for me and I had an absolute (Met) ball.