Directed by: Gary Ross
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Poulson, Awkwafina
The ‘all-female reboot’ has been a controversial trend in recent movies, none more so than ‘Ghostbusters’, a film which I loved, after growing up with and being a huge fan of the originals. Although many have been mooted (let’s pray the female ‘Lord of the Flies’ never happens), only two high-profile examples have come to fruition, with ‘Ocean’s Eight‘ being the second. These reboots have been unpopular with some men (the ‘Ghostbusters ruined my childhood’ crowd) and also some women, who believe we should have new, original and risk-taking material for teams of women to star in, instead of rehashing male-dominated franchises. I fall somewhere in between; I have mostly found them fun, but my biggest issue is that they don’t have women directors or predominantly female crews. The female empowerment aspect feels somewhat empty without the women being behind, as well as in front of the camera.
When I first heard about the cast of ‘Ocean’s Eight‘, I couldn’t help but get excited. As each name was announced and added to the impressive roster, the anticipation built. Then on-set photos were released, revealing the ultra-cool costuming, especially of Cate Blanchett’s character in her velvet suits and scarves. The press tour has blessed us even further in terms of spectacular outfits and great humour, chemistry and flirtations between the cast members. With a cast clearly having this much fun, making and promoting a film, it’s hard not to fall a little bit in love.
The film begins with Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) blagging her way out of jail and immediately returning to her old criminal ways, which clearly run in the family. She contacts her old partner-in-crime Lou (Cate Blanchett), with whom she certainly shares a history, which seems both professional and personal. Debbie has spent her jail time (including deliberately landing herself in solitary) planning an elaborate heist (it wouldn’t be an Oceans film without one) and sets about assembling the team she needs. Key to the plan is fashion designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter), who Debbie recruits to dress film star Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) for the event of the year – the Met Gala Ball. She wants Rose to pretend that she simply must have a 150-million dollar necklace from the vaults of Cartier to adorn the neck of Daphne and then the team can steal it. Further members of the team include diamond expert and forger Amita (Mindy Kaling), pickpocket Constance (Awkwafina), multi-talented suburban Mum Tammy (my favourite; Sarah Paulson) and lastly, in an inspired piece of casting, hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna).
The sparkling and in some cases, sizzling chemistry between the cast is definitely the main strength of this film. There is undeniable tension between Bullock and Blanchett especially, although the plot does hinge around revenge against Bullock’s ex-boyfriend (played by The Hobbit’s Richard Armitage). The glamour of the Met Ball is obviously a big selling point, including an abundance of celebrity cameos. The outfits, coupled with the actual exhibition of crown jewels makes for an impossibly beautiful backdrop and you cannot help but be sucked in by it. There is lots of humour, with Hathaway being particularly great as the spoiled film star who hasn’t eaten for days. Flavours of the familiar score from the original films are featured throughout, along with the trademark split-screen style.
Look, I don’t know what else to tell you. I watched this film in a gorgeous setting, with a cocktail, quality savoury snacks and a good friend. That may have prejudiced me in favour of this film, but so what? It’s meant to be an easy-going, fun, enjoyable ride for women (especially) to enjoy on a Friday night (as we did) and that’s exactly what it is. I really hope Rihanna continues making movies in exactly the vein of this and ‘Valerian‘ because it’s Rihanna and she does what the f**k she wants. As for the continuation of the ‘female reboot’ trend? It’s hard to say at this stage if I’m for or against. I certainly am here for films with amazing ensemble casts of incredible women. If they are new, original and have women directors, all the better.