In my review of 2016’s Ghostbusters I suggested a few other gender swap remakes I’d have wanted to see more. Among them was a female Expendables, which I’m sure they have since announced but the idea seems to have gone quiet, and a Ms. Ocean’s 11.
As it turns out I really enjoyed McCarthy, Wiig, McKinnon and Jones’ Ghostbusters and while I enjoyed Ocean’s 8 too, it’s isn’t as good.
I’m not about to be heavily critical of this movie though. It is a bit slow, its not very feasible and it isn’t as smart or as funny as it needs to be but it is very ably carried by its great cast and it offers an undemanding but enjoyable 110 minutes. I know I’m not exactly singing its praises either but if you’re in the right mood you’ll be entertained. It’s definitely better than Ocean’s 12 and its probably the equal of Ocean’s 13.
The impression you might be getting here is that this isn’t one to rush and see at the cinema, and in some respects you’d be right but in terms of the bigger picture you’d be wrong. The fact is that female ensemble movies like this, that aren’t aimed at teenagers and where the leads are comfortably in their middle age and where no one is objectified, movies like this need to do well. Give this your money, reward it for existing. It isn’t lazy film making, its isn’t brainless or offensive and it has nothing else to apologise for (it isn’t Mamma Mia!) so the fact that its greatest achievement is getting green lit in the first place is enough. You won’t be rewarding mediocrity, although it is a little mediocre, you’ll be making an investment for the future.
Here we are then; social activism through cinema going. You might think I’m being flippant and you may not yet be convinced but art and entertainment are powerful and anything that encourages equal representation is important. Ghostbusters didn’t make a huge amount of money at the box office but now we have a second chance. It doesn’t matter that it isn’t truly great because do you know what? Most movies with lots of guys in aren’t either
and as I said, it isn’t that bad.
As you will probably know the film centres around Debbie Ocean, the sister of George Clooney’s Danny Ocean from the first trilogy. As Debbie, Sandra Bullock (53) puts together an all woman gang of criminals to pull off a diamond heist consisting of Cate Blanchett (49), Helena Bonham Carter (52), Mindy Kaling (39), Awkwafina (29), Rihanna (30) and Sarah Paulson (43). That’s a combined age of 295 and compare that to the seven women in Pitch Perfect whose combined age was 107 years less than that. Almost irrelevant of what they are doing, this group are great to watch. None of the actors are working particularly hard here but their effortless cool is part of the charm. Bullock in particular is a very compelling screen presence despite never once facing any great challenge or hardship or anything approaching any kind of peril. Nonetheless her fairly callous criminal has you on side from the start, again almost purely because she is a woman and because you rarely see women on screen be this assured and bold. She has been underestimated and wronged by a man too which only adds to the feminist treats as she masterfully regains the upper hand.
Cate Blanchett is as good as ever, so confident, controlled, beautiful and composed. I saw her for real earlier this year, struggling up the escalator at Waterloo Station with her kids and was relieved to see that she was actually human like the rest of us. Right now you are doubting that I really saw her at all because she is so confident, controlled, beautiful and composed and you doubt anything to challenge this could ever been witnessed. (I did, it was and now I like her even more.)
Unfortunately Helena Bonham Carter is a little under used and indistinct but only because you expect really good things from her every time she steps in front of a camera. My daughter Ellie suggested that the film was called Ocean’s 8 when there are only seven people in the criminal company because Bonham Carter is worth two of everyone else. On this occasion though she doesn’t live up to that. (Anne Hathaway is number eight but she isn’t consciously involved in the heist.)
Ellie also previously posited that Tim Burton’s version of Dumbo might be called skelephant, which is just genius. (Ellie, 16, looking for a part time job, available for snappy one liners)
There are some men in the cast too. If you like James Corden you’ll enjoy his turn as an insurance investigator but if you’re not a fan this won’t change your mind. (No one remembers how good Corden was in The History Boys.) What seems a bit of a shame is that the director is also a guy. Gary Ross has told feminist stories before with The Hunger Games but are you telling me there wasn’t a woman that could have called the shots on this one? They make a bit of a thing about not having any males in the gang but they’ve got a bloke writing and directing it which seems a shame.
Ocean’s 8 is not as tight or as satisfying as Ocean’s 11 then. The complexities of how they do the job are not as sophisticated, it does demand a fair suspension of disbelief and it often relies on cliche but the fact that they made this movie is fantastic and you should go and see it. When they’re giving the Oscar to an all female Dirty Dozen in three years time they’ll be saying it wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for this.