I can’t be the only one who had an orgasmic reaction every time a new marketing tidbit was released for Ocean’s 8. First came the production still of our #squad in those fabulous coats on a subway. Then came the movie poster, each exquisite profile outlined in red, channeling business and mayhem. Then came the trailer. I couldn’t catch what Rihanna said her name was and it didn’t matter: I knew she would be the key to the whole operation. I knew Sandra Bullock would play a doe-eyed criminal hiding a master plan that takes no prisoners. I knew Cate Blanchett would be serving Boss Bitch with a side of homoeroticism. I wanted to drown myself in girl power vibes. It felt like women’s movie desires were finally being taken seriously. It felt like Hollywood had finally clued in to what the Women’s March was about. The beginning of #MeToo, yes, but also the right to entertainment that allows us joy in its purest form. Joy like watching a bunch of women steal a bunch of stuff just because they can.
Listen: I understand that trailers are crafted by people who are experts in human behavior and cater purely to the bottom line. It’s not unusual for a trailer to be better than the film. But when the reviews for Ocean’s 8 were underwhelming, I was actually saddened.
I like to keep my expectations low. How can I be disappointed, I reason, if I never had any expectations at all? There’s a long-standing debate in my family about surprises. Some of us love surprise parties and surprise visits from overseas relatives. The near-heart attack reactions are precious. However, the consensus seems to be that it’s a better time when you have a chance to anticipate the excellent time ahead. Bite your nails in the days leading up to the big event. Hope for the feminist event of the century and then get ... Ocean’s 8. All anticipation, no payoff.
That’s not to say the movie has no redeeming qualities. I now know that in an ideal world, my wardrobe would include every article on Lou’s (Blanchett) body. The expression Daphne (Anne Hathaway) makes when the insurance investigator (James Corden) mentions her neck is a masterful blend of “surprise” modesty and arrogance. Everything Rose (Helena Bonham Carter) does is absurdly hysterical. Someone watched Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and understood that Rihanna doesn’t have to speak, dance, or act – she just has to sit there and she’ll be the most impactful presence in the room. (See: BDE.)
So what went wrong? Pacing. And a severe lack of stakes. Remember in Ocean’s Eleven when Danny (George Clooney) was getting beat up in the back of a casino? Watching that was sickening. He was blinded by love! He doomed the heist! Then to have the whole flashback sequence explain how everything was planned – sitting on my couch the first time I saw that, I felt an honest-to-goodness rush of endorphins. I myself wasn’t trying to rob Andy Garcia, but watching Danny Ocean’s team do it made me feel like I was in on the operation.
Ocean’s 8 is the fourth installment in this series and by now, it’s not hard to predict that these fabulous ladies are ironclad. They’re too good to fail. Even if I hadn’t figured out that Daphne was in on the shebang ahead of time, I wouldn’t have felt the same rush as I did watching Brad Pitt parade around in a SWAT uniform. There is simply a crushing amount of evidence at this point that everything will go exactly as planned, with perhaps a little twist at the end to make it even better.
So what? So I was disappointed by a movie. Who hasn’t been? Who hasn’t entered a movie with high hopes just to leave disappointed? It’s a sequel, for crying out loud. Who among us?
But if I was wrong about Hollywood understanding what I, a white Millennial woman, one of their target audiences, wants to see on the big screen, that means a whole lot more than me being a snowflake brat. It means that Hollywood executives think if they give me enough female-led films directed by men, I should be satisfied. That if they give me enough sparkly fashion to look at, it will distract me from fundamental narrative issues. Worst of all, that if they keep me quiet for long enough, the men in their midst who have been shamed into hiding might one day reemerge. I’m afraid that movies like Ocean’s 8 indicate the #MeToo era won't have the lasting effect so many people have been working for.
Let’s demand better. Let’s demand that the next film with a female cast as stellar as this one not be squandered. Let’s demand blockbuster entertainment that doesn’t insult its target demographic. Maybe by making our demands known, this small act will send a message that even here, even in fluffy escapism, we won’t be silent.