Saturday, June 16, 2018

Ocean's 8


After spending five years in prison, Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) is not just ready for a new heist, she is also hell-bent in exacting her well-planned revenge. Her target is this year's MET Gala, the event where she plans to steal a $150M Cartier necklace from the neck of airhead actress Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway). Relying on connections both old and new, she assembles a team of pros to accomplish her con: long-time partner in crime Lou (Cate Blanchett); suburban mom and fence Tammy (Sarah Paulson); has-been fashion designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter); jeweler Amita (Mindy Kaling); pickpocket Constance (Awkwafina); and hacker extraordinaire Nine Ball (Rihanna). Dodging CCTVs and the necklace's own team of assigned bodyguards, the team executes their plan. However, there will always be a surprise or two along the way. Are they joining their mastermind on her trip back to prison or will they be laughing their way to the bank with millions of dollars each in tow?

Don't we just love heist movies? But a real lover of this genre would know how it is best to leave one's brain at the door for a more enjoyable viewing experience. Because there will be loopholes, and Ocean's 8 is full of it. A group discussion with friends after viewing should be fun, but to have a good time perhaps one must focus on the glitz and the glamor involved in this fun cast of amazing and talented women. After all, it's not every day that you get an ensemble with this kind of rapport both onscreen and offscreen. Watch the press junkets and TV interviews if you are not convinced.

A lot of people are saying that this is a breakthrough movie. That can be a good thing or a bad thing. For one, the timing of its release at the height of the #MeToo movement has benefited the film by generating a considerable amount of buzz even when it was still in the early stages of production. Such publicity has indeed paid off, with the movie easily outgrossing Clooney's all-male version that came out a decade ago.

Ocean's 8 is suddenly not just a movie, but also an event, pretty much in the same vein as Wonder Woman last year. This is a good thing, right? Of course. Raking in enough moolah at the box office is a good indicator that films helmed by women can also make money, and this popcorn flick's performance has guaranteed that it won't be the last.

The sad thing is that it runs the risk of being all about the hype. Ocean's 8 will be remembered not as "that enjoyable heist movie" but rather "that gender-flipped Geroge Clooney heist movie". Maybe because it is a remake. Maybe because it is a statement against a male-dominated industry and the calls to change such status quo.

In the end it all boils down to the film being special because it is an all-female cast and that makes it extraordinary. If it is, indeed, extraordinary, then that means it is out of the ordinary. It shouldn't be, otherwise that kind of defeats the purpose. If we all end up assessing a movie based on the gender of its cast, then that just highlights the disparity even more.

And so, the verdict: Disregarding all the feminist undertones that have taken over the film's entire marketing campaign, is Ocean's 8 worth your money and your time? I'd say so. It is far from perfect but it does deliver the brand of escapist storyline that its audience would love to see. We all have winning-the-lottery daydreams. This movie is your what-if-I-get-my-hands-on-a-$150M-necklace-and-attend-the-Met-Ball-at-the-same-time scenario, brought to you by the ever-reliable comedic charm of Bullock and friends.

Ocean's 9 should be in pre-production soon enough. Here's hoping that they will come up with a more convincing narrative that can stand on its own instead of riding the coattails of an industry-changing social movement.

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