When the all-women reboot of Ghostbusters came around in 2016, I hyped it, took a guy to see it, laughed too loudly in the cinema then defended it (mostly to men) for the next few months. And it turns out you can defend a Paul Feig film about ghosts with Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon at the top of their game. For a while. Until you realise it just wasn’t very good and those funny ladies deserved better.
And here we are again.
Brie Larson recently called out old, white, male film critics who’ve been panning A Wrinkle In Time, and pulling down its Rotten Tomatoes score, by saying “it’s not for you”.
Well, Brie, I am all for more female and ethnically diverse movie critics. Yes please, I’m available. I have also seen and enjoyed both Ocean’s 11 and the Met Gala fashion documentary The First Monday In May meaning Ocean’s 8 – set at that very gala – is very much For Me. I’m squatting in the sweet spot of potential audiences here. And I’m not going to halfheartedly defend a reboot this time. It’s OK to say it’s stylish-ish, with charming performances, the soundtrack’s quite fun… and it’s still a mediocre movie.
“I’m squatting in the sweet spot of potential audiences here, but I’m not going to halfheartedly defend a reboot this time just because it has a female cast”
Movie star women getting to be dickheads on the big screen is a sight to behold and probably worth the ticket price. But it can’t forgive everything and the heist in Ocean’s 8 is weak AF.
An Ocean’s movie lives and dies on its ability to set up, then show and tell, how its squad of rogues got one over on whatever bastards they’re duping that day. All with a breezy charm and a cast of shit-eating faces. Not the kind that makes you want to smack those pretty faces, the kind that makes you want to be in their club. Let’s call that delicate balance the Soderbergh Smug. I didn’t realise how much I’d missed it until I watched Steven Soderbergh’s Logan Lucky – Ocean’s-does-Nascar-with-hicks – last year and there it was. But we’re not here to talk about the boys.
In the first half of Ocean’s 8 – Ocean’s-does-jewels-with-girls – most of me was waiting for the main Met Gala heist. The character intros did just enough to get me itching for an intricate scheme and satisfying pay-off, but what we got was an unconvincing villain, plot holes, one painfully obvious twist and a switcheroo that was just, well, boring.
I refuse to believe it took Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) FIVE YEARS AND EIGHT MONTHS in prison to come up with this plan. What was the idea she was rolling with in year three – a gorilla suit? As a caper, I’d put it in the same category as Ocean’s 12. Yeah. You have to earn the Smug.
That’s not to say I had my left nostril scrunched up in disgust for nearly two hours. There is stuff here that we could do with more of when it comes to mainstream cinema. I laughed along at Mindy Kaling’s comic timing, I enjoyed Awkwafina and Rihanna’s whole vibes, and was impressed by what the cast was able to do with the too thin, too short hang-out sections of Gary Ross and Olivia Milch’s script. (Ross also wrote the story – i.e. the disappointing plot – and directed).
And I’m always here for women being unruly on screen, whether that’s eating, drinking, hacking, stealing or just being capable in one scene and mucking about in the next. That’s genuinely an example of something male critics might ignore or undervalue.
“I’m always here for women being unruly on screen, whether that’s eating, drinking, hacking, stealing or just being capable in one scene and mucking about in the next. That’s genuinely an example of something male critics might ignore or undervalue.”
There’s a moment where Lou (Cate Blanchett, underserved) puts on her Soderbergh Smug face and moves to fix her sparkly outfit – which does not need fixing – for an audience of one, her friend and co-conspirator Debbie. That small touch gave me the same cinema thrill as seeing Wonder Woman throwing soldiers through brick walls or Kate McKinnon’s Jillian Holtzmann whip out her blasters for a slow mo, ghost killing spree.
It’s OK to say Ocean’s 8 isn’t that great but that, in the right hands, a similar spin-off or copycat could be. Just like it’s OK to say that Black Panther was a joyous vision of afrofuturism spliced with a pretty average superhero plot. When the first movie in a franchise is always fronted by white men, it becomes an increasingly impossible task to keeps things fresh for those who get to play with the fourth, fifth, sixth instalments.
It’s OK. You can vote with your £10 Odeon ticket for more of this. You can want to see more movies like this without ever watching this one again.
Let’s not be the girls who cried classic. It’s a disservice to the future, female-led films that will get it right. When the time comes, like it did for broad comedies with the undeniably brilliant Bridesmaids, we can go all in, wailing full-hearted praise into the internet and physically forcing naysaying bro butts into cinema seats.
It’s OK. It’s making enough money at the box office. It’s OK.