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‘Ocean’s 8’ lack of conflict is the most important part of its fantasy – ANITH
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‘Ocean’s 8’ lack of conflict is the most important part of its fantasy

‘Ocean’s 8’ lack of conflict is the most important part of its fantasy

In Ocean’s 8, things don’t need to be difficult to be worth it.

Image: Barry Wetcher / Warner Bros.

Since its box office–topping release, Ocean’s 8 has delighted some moviegoers and caused others to respond with a not-resounding shrug. 

The shruggers point to the film’s lack of conflict as an issue with the story, alluding to the fact that the lady criminals in the movie experience few setbacks in their quest to steal millions of dollars worth of diamonds, and that the setbacks they do encounter are solved easily. 

“This movie is boring,” they say, “because there is no tension or concern whether they’ be able to pull off the job.”

Way to miss the point, y’all. 

Ocean’s 8 is good precisely because there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that this group of women will be able to perform their shiny, elaborate heist. Whatever tension is lost in that surety is replaced with a different, rarer cinematic delight: the joy of knowing that highly competent women will succeed virtually uninterrupted and win their prize at the end of the day. 

Do these people know how orgasmic it is to watch a bunch of women complete a task without anyone bothering them? It’s a female-oriented fantasy on par with the acquisition of a $150 million dollar necklace, a wistful “if only” scenario as far fetched as successfully framing one’s bullshit ex for grand larceny. 

The heist in Ocean’s 8 is planned over a course of delightful autumn days where Cate Blanchett can wear either a silk bomber jacket or a zippy velvet coat and feel equally comfortable. Sandra Bullock emerges from prison with perfect beach waves and spends her first night as a free woman in a bubble bath surrounded by fancy candles. 

The Ocean's 8 girl gang.

The Ocean’s 8 girl gang.

Nothing in this movie is about how hard it is to be a woman (or a criminal), and the buttery ease with which the titular 8 scam their way through New York’s most expensive neighborhoods is a direct aspirational parallel to the suit-wearing, cigar-smoking bad boy vibe present in the Ocean’s 11 series from which Ocean’s 8 was spawned. 

Women just want to have a day where their skills are applied successfully and nobody gives them shit. 

Men want to feel like they are kings of every room they walk into. Women just want to have a day where their skills are applied successfully and nobody gives them shit. The bubble bath is optional. 

This theme of competency is compounded when Sandra Bullock as Debbie Ocean comments on the all-women makeup of her chosen crew. “A him gets noticed,” Debbie explains. “A her gets ignored. And for once, we’d like to be ignored.” She weaponizes the virtual invisibility of women at various points in her plan and manipulated the social and racial expectations of her marks.

When Rihanna’s Nine Ball disguises herself as the cleaning staff at a securities firm, no one bothers to question why a black woman with dreadlocks is emptying trash cans even as she plants a listening device to snoop on their meetings. Awkwafina’s Constance blends in with the wait staff at the Met Ball because of and not in spite of her race. 

This man has no idea what's happening.

This man has no idea what’s happening.

Even in one of the film’s big twists, when it is revealed that Anne Hathaway’s Daphne Kluger has decided to join the crew, she uses the expectation that she is an empty-headed actress to shield her newfound friends from prosecution. These are all women who understand how and why they are slotted into the categories the world places them, and they use that to pull off a flawless crime. 

There is no big conflict because the conflict already exists everywhere, at all times, around every woman in the crew, and they bend it to their will instead of letting it stop them from getting what they want.

In John Mulaney’s comedy special New In Town, he jokes that there could never be a female version of Ocean’s 11. “Ocean’s 11 with women would never work because’ two would keep breaking off and start talking shit about the other nine,” he says. “Or not even talk shit, just say weird passive aggressive things while they break into the casino.”

To be fair, it’s a much funnier joke in context. But the fact remains that Ocean’s 8 worked precisely because the common depiction of women as catty or incompetent was subverted and transformed into a strength. 

Watching eight hotties turn those expectations around, use them to their advantage, and succeed wildly is all some moviegoers – many of them women – need to appreciate the perfect crime. 

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Anith Gopal
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