Don’t get me wrong—I just loved to death “Ocean’s 8,” Steven Soderbergh’s all-female spinoff from his cash-machine Dubya-era “Ocean’s 11” trilogy remake of the 1960 Rat Pack classic. As I settled in with a glass of white wine (what else?) at a bar-cum-recliner seats local movie house, I reveled in the designer clothes, the glam setting (New York’s celebrity-packed Met Gala plus some Vogue magazine and Cartier), the expensive jewels, the gourmet eats, the to-die-for Manhattan apartments, the bevy of cameo-role A-listers (Kim Kardashian, Anna Wintour, Serena Williams) all playing themselves. What was there for a girl not to like?
The plot revolves around a highly successful heist from the Gala of a $150 million diamond statement-necklace carefully schemed by Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), sister of the supposedly recently deceased Danny Ocean of the trilogy, and her seven female sidekicks.
So what if the necklace in question, every time it appeared on camera, looked like so much cheap glass? So what if Lou (Cate Blanchett), Debbie’s much-vaunted partner in crime and the sidekick equivalent of Brad Pitt’s Rusty Ryan to George Clooney’s Danny in the trilogy, had hardly a thing to do? I loved all those zany criminal chicks in their cool high-heeled boots, although my very favorite was Sarah Paulson as Tammy, the suburban mom/stolen-goods fence.
I was even willing to put up with feminist bloviation like this from Refinery29:
It’s no coincidence that this blockbuster with a powerhouse female cast ends the way it does. “What I love about these characters is that in their own way, they represent women who want economic empowerment, and women who want to forge their own path, and who maybe haven’t been allowed to do that for whatever reason,” Olivia Milch, who co-wrote the film with director Gary Ross, said in an interview with Refinery29. “And that is not necessarily how you might interpret a popcorn heist movie, but I do think that there is a message of what are the options available to women, and how we sort of how we have to make our own way in the world, and create for ourselves opportunities that we want, when they’re not afforded to us.”
A number of films released in the aftermath of the collective reckoning in Hollywood and beyond around issues of sexual harassment and assault have been labeled “#MeToo” movies. But “Ocean’s 8” feels like the first “Time’s Up” movie, in the sense that it directly alludes to what women can achieve when they have true, long-lasting economic freedom and security.
Because women can’t achieve “economic empowerment” unless they steal stuff. They’re too dumb to, say, start successful legitimate businesses on their own.
But the tell about “Ocean’s 8”—what reveals it as the ultimate chick flick that could emanate only from the brain of a chick—is the scrambled mess that its plot turns into. It’s an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez movie.
By the end of the film (and I hope I’m not revealing any spoilers), in order to shove the clunky theft stratagem along without police detection, no fewer than 14 people have been recruited into a heist plan that is supposed to involve just eight carefully selected and vetted experts. The probability of a ratting-out by latecomers whose split of the take isn’t so great rises exponentially.
Furthermore, while diamonds may be a girl’s best friend and certainly pretty, they’re things, not cash, and as Danny Ocean could have told his baby sis, they need to be liquidated, like all non-cash assets, in order to be worth anything at all. That means, if they’re stolen, they need to be fenced. And fences don’t pay market; they buy at deep discounts.
A $150 million necklace suddenly becomes, as the “Ocean’s 8” gals belatedly realize, maybe an $85 million necklace. “Ocean’s 8″ solves that problem by introducing, minutes before the movie’s end, a deus ex machina—or, more properly, a latro ex machina—who obliges our all-girl crime team by heisting a gazillion dollars more in additional diamond jewelry from the Met Gala. So—who’s going to fence that, especially since it all (sorry—spoiler!) turns out to be the centuries-old patrimony of European nations that employ, you know, highly trained detective forces whose personnel may be a bit more incentivized than the lazy insurance investigator whom Debbie Ocean bamboozles? “Economic empowerment” might have to wait for our girl gang once Interpol gets onto the case.
But who cares? Look at the furs, fun new hobbies, fabulous apartments, glam careers, trips to Paris, and nice new boyfriends that the “Ocean’s 8” ladies get without even having to work too hard for that swag? That’s what makes “Ocean’s 8” the ultimate chick flick—because it’s about what chicks ultimately want.
Photo credit: Barry Wetcher/Warner Brothers