Ocean’s 8 was greeted with excitement at the box office, bringing in between $41-$45 million on opening weekend (depending on whether you count Thursday as the weekend or start counting on Friday). Ocean’s 8 is a spinoff of the franchise established with Ocean’s 11 in 2001 by Director Steven Soderbergh, which was a remake of the 1960s’ film by the same title. The “Ocean’s” franchise has been Soderbergh’s cash cow almost two decades, whether he’s directing or producing, like he did for Ocean’s 8. Gary Ross directed the star-studded film. At face value, Ocean’s 8 made more money on opening weekend than all the others in the Soderbergh franchise, but when the numbers are adjusted for inflation, Ocean’s 8 did about as well as Ocean’s 13, better than 12, and not as well as 11, but the summer is just beginning.
What sets Ocean’s 8 apart from the others is that this time around, the thieves, the stars, the cool cats are women, but not just any women, they are women you want to see. The film stars Sandra Bullock as Debbie Ocean, Danny Ocean’s (from the other “Ocean’s” and played by George Clooney) estranged sister who is released on parole after five years in the can. When Debbie gets out, the first thing she does (after picking up some essentials) is seek out her partner in crime, Lou, played by the magnificent Cate Blanchett. Once the pair is on the same page about the job, they start building their all-star team, women with skills, brains, looks, and attitudes. The heist team includes Amita (Mindy Kaling) a jeweler with the 4Cs of diamonds in engrained in her Being; Sarah Paulson is Tammy, a suburban mom with an affinity for moving goods; Awkwafina is Constance, an understated hustler, who--like Awkwafina’s own song says, “Awkwafina's a genius/And her vagina is 50 times better than a penis.” Rihanna is stellar as Nine Ball, a hacker so hot, she’s off the charts. Helena Bonham Carter twinkles as Rose Weil, an absent-minded artist and fashion designer who joins the team as her only way out of a declining career and financial ruin. The motley crew comes together with one goal in mind, to rob a Cartier necklace worth about $150 million off the neck of Daphne Kluger, a fickle and temperamental diva played by Anne Hathaway. The heist is to take place at the Metropolitan Museum in the Upper East Side. The Met itself shines, it’s as lovely as ever and filled with stars of its own. The setting for the heist, the fashion, and the luxury, make Ocean’s 8 a feast for the eyes.
For the most part Ocean’s 8 is entertaining enough and lives up to the standards of its predecessors. The summer heist movie is cool and collected but for the most part stays safely within the genre and does not deviate from the well-established formula; the “t’s” are crossed, and the “i’s” are dotted. The filmmakers take great care to create links between the previous films and Ocean’s 8 by making parallels and connections through the use of details like the watch with dice on the back, and Debbie’s attire on the closing shot; and restaging key scenes, from the parole interview to luring Tammy into the heist. The familiarity with the plot makes its delivery straightforward. It took Debbie her entire sentence to concoct the perfect crime, but she’s too good of a planner, she has the details worked out, and the execution goes like clockwork—and this is the problem with Ocean’s 8. There is no tension, or ever a doubt in viewers’ minds of what the outcome will be. The lack of real or perceived danger is nonexistent, even on the big night, and this is really disappointing, because it makes Ocean’s 8 forgettable in the long run, just like the other films in the franchise. Soderbergh would have killed it if he had hired a woman director, say, Patty Jenkins; did he not see Wonder Woman?
What makes Ocean’s 8 interesting is its timing and position in the industry, after the #MeToo movement, and the momentum that has been building for movies by women, for women, and about women, Ocean’s 8’s reception feels like the calm before the storm. Ocean’s 8 managed to avoid the same fate as Ghostbuster: Answer the Call (2016). Ocean’s 8 didn’t have to contend with the narrative around it that was misogynistic and racist, but who knows if this is because the cast, collectively, has wider market appeal, or because it plays up the femininity of the characters. There are other movies coming down the pipeline that unleash pussy, keep an eye on The Girl in the Spider’s Web, Revenge, and Peppermint, because the gloves come off, and SHE grabs back.