The all-female reboot is a new phenomenon sweeping worldwide film culture. This device takes “classic” films or franchises and reworks them with an all-female leading cast. The Ocean’s franchise is the latest to go through this transition. But due to its predecessors that failed to make any lasting impression (Ghostbusters and, er, come back me on that one), Ocean’s 8 was put under the microscope from the moment it was announced.
So how successful how this film been? Is it just another part of a fleeting craze, or could these reboots be the next step towards equality for women in the film and media industry?
The cast: Okay first up, we need to talk about the cast. Fronted by Sandra Bullock as Debbie Ocean, and accompanied by Cate Blanchett as her mysterious but loyal right-hand woman, we are presented with an interesting and diverse group of women (Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Rihanna, Awkwafina, Sarah Paulson and Mindy Kaling make up the rest of the gang). Each actor is well suited to their role and they are all given individual moments to shine. (Most of) The characters themselves exude self-confidence. They are fully aware of their strengths and talents, and how these fit into the task at hand. Bonham Carter’s timid fashion designer is the only member who is unsure of her ability to pull off her role in the heist, but her insecurities are soon squashed through her heist-mate’s support and encouragement.
The soundtrack: The soundtrack features a range of artists from Amy Winehouse to Dorothy Ashby to Nancy Sinatra. Their songs are used to enhance the sense of female camaraderie and elevate their moments of victory. As female musicians, their presence during this film is made all the more palpable and allows the audience to bask in the women’s victories too. Special thanks must go to this soundtrack creator for reminding me how much of a banger “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” is.
The overall message: Ocean’s 8 is rife with messages that not only put women in the forefront, but in powerful positions too. The major message I took away was this: anything men can do, women can do whilst wearing heels. What I mean by this is that women can seamlessly fit into a typically masculine role of a criminal whilst still showing an interest in things traditionally dubbed feminine (fashion, jewellery and art). A stand out moment being Rihanna – mid-heist – simultaneously painting her toenails and directing her team through the mission, exhibiting that these women are so confident and comfortable in themselves that they do not feel the need to toughen up, adopt masculine traits or ditch feminine ones in order to do their job successfully. Additionally, the characters are self-aware and intune with their position within society. This operation needs to be all-female, as Debbie states, “a him gets noticed and a her gets ignored”. This understanding, and their ability to accept their situation and use it to their advantage, is what make these women so damn powerful.
What needs work?
The plot: So we all know the blueprint for an Ocean’s movie by now: we see the team assemble, prepare for the heist, we watch it take place and then we watch it unfold afterwards. And this edition to the franchise was no exception to the rule. What the plot of Ocean’s 8 lacked, though, was tension. Any obstacle that arose and could have potentially thwarted the whole operation was solved within 2 minutes. Being familiar with this franchise, and with heist movies in general, we know the team are going to be successful by the time the credits start rolling. But this familiarity means that any stakes presented don’t feel high enough.
Additionally, Debbie’s reason for carrying out the whole task (to get back at her ex-boyfriend) trivialises the whole mission. This brings the phrase “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” to a whole new level, but maybe not in a productive or progressive way.
The production team: Now I’m not saying that an all-female cast should have an all-female crew alongside it. But wouldn’t it be nice if there was equal representation of men and women in the production side of the film industry? And wouldn’t it be nice if a movie centred so entirely on women was written and directed by women too?
James Corden: Maybe this is a unique dislike, but how does James Corden manage to weasel his way into everything these days? His “lovably-awkward-British-guy-trying-to-make-it-in-America” shtick just doesn’t do it for me and I hate how people (men) reacted when they first found out he had a role in Ocean’s 8. Clearly someone important (whether that be the studio, producers or the director) thought that men needed a relatable and likeable man cast to soften the blow of a female-orientated film I think this points to a larger issue of how seriously (or not) these reboots are being taken and how they are received differently by men and women.
So there we have it folks: the highs and lows of the latest Ocean’s film and the latest franchise to get the gender-reboot treatment. After watching Ocean’s 8, I felt proud to be a strong and independent woman; thus proving that this film has been successful. Debbie Ocean states: “Somewhere out there, there’s an 8 year old girl dreaming of becoming a criminal. You’re doing this for her”, but realistically, it stretches a lot further than that. Seeing a (good) movie filled with independent and powerful women will encourage generations of women and girls to take pride in their hobbies, interests and strengths; ultimately spurring them to take pride in themselves.