When Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), the sister of a well known con-man, is being released from jail, she claims she will lead a simple life, just paying her bills and all that. We immediately know that this is not true. The rest of the movie, where she masterminds a grand jewellery theft, is similarly predictable — but no less enjoyable. Directed by Gary Ross, this all-female sequel to its popular eponymous heist-movie franchise is a fun ride with women who kick ass.
As Ocean gathers an odd group of women, from her old partner Lou (Cate Blanchett) to the elusive hacker (Rihanna as mysterious Nine Ball who refuses to give her real name), a lot of racial stereotyping is at play: the assumption, carelessly thrown around, that all Russians are hackers; an Indian girl Amita (Mindy Kaling) who is frustrated that ‘she has no pati (husband)’, an Asian street hustler Constance (Awkwafina) who looks straight out of martial art movie, and many more. Out to prove the point women can be as cunning as men, the movie is not subtle.
Helena Bonham Carter, as the disgraced designer Rose Weil, is particularly effective, going off into dazes and coming back with sudden exclamations that turn out to be just the right thing to say. Tammy (Sarah Paulson) has an eternally pinched expression as a fraudster trying to appear normal for her kids, adding to the drama. How the women convince their scapegoat, vapid actress Diane Kluger (Anne Hathaway), to fall into their plans at the glamorous Met Gala is a bit tricky. But what do they do when Kluger (is the real Diane Kruger watching?) turns out to be not as brainless as they expected?
The movie has plot holes and glitches here and there, some beyond credibility, but the stellar cast works quite well together to make sure you are not bored, with twists and turns until the very end. And last but not the least, the insurance investigator (James Corden) manages to steal the show with his witty remarks, despite the boring, stodgy role he is burdened with.
In an era when there are voices being raised for more visibility and stronger roles for women in films, movies like Ocean’s 8 come as a welcome break. Here we see women being smart, strong, brainy, skilled, enterprising, calculating, victorious, and not pidgeonholed in eye-candy roles. Not saying they are not beautiful, however. But — despite the overdose of glamour and fashion (including a cameo from Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour)– the way they look is not centre stage here, which is a relief. The eye candy here is Debbie’s ex Claude Becker (Richard Armitage), and we are fine with that.
Sure, we need more movies that pass the Bechdel Test, but is that enough? This movie throws up a question of what was meant by higher visibility of women. Do women on screen have to do all the borderline negative things that male heroes do to be considered successful? That then brings up the general question of whether glamorizing crime is OK, no matter if it is men or women.
The answer is that this is a leave-your-brains-at-home kind of movie. Enjoy the ride and forget about it afterwards.