An All-Female Ensemble Done Right

January 3rd, 2018An All-Female Ensemble Done Right

In the last few years, Hollywood has jumped on the "remake this movie, but with women" trend for ensemble films. While we can argue the dubious merits of studios treating female-led films like gimmicks and rather than just like, you know, normal movies, it's still great to see girl gangs kicking ass on screen. These attempts haven't always been received well (looking at you, Ghostbusters), not because of that pesky female thing, but because they simply weren't great movies.

Of all the franchise-X-but-with-women films heading our way, however, the most promising is Oceans8, directed by Gary Ross. The first trailer, released in December, was excellent:

The trailer is essentially a blueprint on how to do a female-led ensemble film in an already established franchise right. The problem with previous attempts, like the aforementioned Ghostbusters, isn't that they had all-female casts. The past year proved that women belong on the big screen, anchoring big movies. Audiences have shown they don't care whether it's women in the lead or men in the lead as long as the quality is there—look no further than the box office juggernauts of Beauty and the Beast, Wonder Woman, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, for proof enough of that. The problem is that previous female ensemble attempts simply haven't been good movies, period.

Ghostbusters went wrong by paying too much attention to the backlash from fans angry at a Ghostbusters remake with—gasp!—women. But there will always be fan backlash when beloved properties are reimagined or addressed in a new way, and there will always be a toxic segment of fandom whose hate bubbles to the surface any time changes are made to what they see as "their" franchise. Instead of ignoring the predictable outcry on message boards and making the Ghostbusters remake its own unique thing, it became afraid to take risks. The result was a lukewarm movie with generic comedy that wallowed in the nostalgia of the past instead of carrying the franchise into the future. Rather than approaching a remake of all women with an attitude of, "Yeah, so?" it came across as apologetic.

Ocean's 8, on the other hand, smartly sidestepped treating its cast like a gimmick in favor of treating it like a matter of course—because it is. Everything we love about the Ocean's franchise is there: the slick, high end settings; the savvy team plotting their heist; the camaraderie between the characters. But it still comes across as wholly its own thing in the tone and focus of the heist. What's more, it didn't feel compelled to add cameos from any of the men in previous Ocean's movies as a crutch. The new team doesn't need help from George Clooney, Brad Pitt, or Matt Damon and Ocean's 8 knows it. The ladies have got this. They're good.

Like the previous movies, the cast assembled is bananas, with some of the most talented actresses of our day finally getting to share screen time. Sandra Bullock alone is a national treasure and her playing Danny Ocean's estranged sister was a stroke of genius on casting director Debra Zane's part. All due respect to the dynamic duo of Clooney and Pitt, but I could watch three more movies of her as Danny Ocean's counterpart and Cate Blanchett as Rusty Ryan's.

The synopsis is simple, their plan to accomplish it, surely not:

A criminal mastermind and seven other female thieves try to pull off the heist of the century at New York's annual Met Gala.

Along with Bullock and Blanchett, the new Team Ocean set to steal the jewels from the Gala include Mindy Kaling, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Paulson, and Akiwafina. Anne Hathaway plays their mark, Daphne Kluger. But is she exactly what she appears to be? The title is Ocean's 8, not 7—is she the "job within a job" that Blanchett's Lou refers to in the trailer?

There's a lot to love here, not the least of which because it looks to remain true to the spirit of the Ocean's movies while carving out its own place in the franchise. Hopefully its success will show future all-female remakes they can strut onto the big screen with a fierceness rather than with a mumbled apology.

Ocean's 8 is in theaters on June 8, 2018.