There’s a scene in Ocean’s 8 — which hits UK cinemas on 18th June — in which Sandra Bullock’s ringleader Debbie Ocean explains why she wants to keep her crew strictly female. Men get noticed, she explains, but women are ignored. And to pull off the perfect heist — in this case, nicking some hugely expensive jewels in the middle of the glitzy Met Gala aka "fashion prom" — an ability to stay under the radar is a definite perk.
It’s a comment steeped in gender politics; indeed, it’s hard to argue that women aren’t constantly underestimated. But it’s also somewhat ironic — because who could possibly ignore the eight magnetic, powerful female leads helming the summer’s most buzzworthy blockbuster?
We certainly can’t. As Bullock and co-stars Cate Blanchett and Awkwafina noted in their interview with Refinery 29, this reboot of the Ocean’s 11 franchise is intended to be a "fun, entertaining, funny ride" rather than a political statement, but that doesn’t mean it’s not empowering. One day, a female-dominated ensemble cast won’t be a novelty, but we’re not quite there yet. And what a cast it is: diverse, complex, and given free rein to embody some truly badass women.
Here’s our spoiler-free breakdown on why the film is giving us such strong #girlpowergoals. Prepare to leave the cinema inspired, enthused and empowered — but let’s leave those heists to the pros, okay?
Those Fearless Females
Her brother Danny (George Clooney) may be the one famed for his casino capers, but it’s Debbie (Sandra Bullock) who may just be the real gambler in the Ocean family. She’s bold, she’s audacious and she’s absolutely unflappable, navigating each and every potential hiccup with a cool confidence. But even the most capable leader needs a solid squad to get the job done.
Meet Lou (Cate Blanchett), the cynical, street-smart sidekick who pulls the strings from behind the scenes. Nine Ball (Rihanna) is a cool-as-a-cucumber hacker who can invade anyone’s private space but prefers to keep her own life a mystery, while Tammy (Sarah Paulson) is a ruthless fence lurking beneath a sweet suburban mum’s sweater sets. Opportunist Constance (Awkwafina) has a killer sleight of hand, Amita (Mindy Kaling) is an outspoken diamond expert who doesn’t suffer fools, and fashion designer Rose's (Helena Bonham Carter) creative chops help her overcome her skittishness at making her first foray into law-breaking.
As for movie star Daphne (Anne Hathaway), the glamazon who’ll be wearing the $150 million diamond necklace Debbie and co. plan to steal? She’s as dramatic as they come — but is she a victim, or an accomplice? Our lips are sealed.
More Con, Less Rom-Com
Is it possible to get a gold star for acing the Bechdel test? While the original Ocean’s 11 hinged heavily on the lingering looks shared by George Clooney and Julia Roberts, romance is most definitely on the back burner for these ladies — they’ve got a heist to plan! Though the film isn’t without its share of sexual tension, it doesn’t fall back on the trope of having its lovesick female characters pine over some dude. There’s a lot more at stake for this motley crew, and the only relationships they’re investing in — on both a professional and personal level — are the bonds they’ve formed with each other.
Barring that no-boys-allowed rule, this gang is refreshingly inclusive. Three out of the eight female leads — Rihanna, Awkwafina and Mindy Kaling — are women of colour. In RiRi’s case, hairstylist Yusef Williams told Refinery29 that she specifically requested her character wear locs to highlight her Caribbean background.
"We thought it would be strong," Williams told us. "Her locs would maintain that tie to Africa. She'd keep her accent. She wasn't just going to be some American girl in this movie. Nine Ball is still a Caribbean girl that just happens to be in America.
"When people have locs, it's kind of like their crown," he added. "It's their pride and joy."
The film’s commitment to range extends beyond culture, however. The actresses don’t all adhere to one uniform body type and they span a range of ages. Note to Hollywood: more of this, please.
The Catfights Have Been Cancelled
There’s plenty of drama here, but it’s not between these women. Whereas far too many projects seem more invested in hair-pulling than sisterly solidarity, there’s no rivalry with this bunch. Everyone’s a pro with special skills and their own opportunity to shine; there’s no need to compete. This may be a criminal enterprise, but it’s a supportive one — whether that means making a meal for a cohort or giving her props when she pulls off a spectacular score.
"We’re having fun, and we’re getting along, and we care about each other," Bullock told Refinery29 of the group’s positive, girl power appeal. It’s a vibe that’s so contagious, cinema-goers will want to round up their own girl gang — though maybe just for happy hour rather than a full-fledged heist.
Looking Good, Feeling Good
You can’t talk about a film whose plot is so rooted in the fashion world — Anna Wintour makes a cameo, after all — without addressing the impact personal style has on each character. Call it superficial, but each and every woman here — from Nine Ball’s locs to Daphne’s power pink lipstick to Lou’s rockstar-worthy leather trousers — is FEELING HERSELF. And whether that confidence spike comes courtesy of a knit beanie or a pair of designer heels that were probably shoplifted from right under some Bergdorf Goodman shop assistant’s nose, it’s pointless to pretend that indulging your individuality and self-expression doesn’t feel empowering. Ocean’s 8 doesn’t apologise for that — and neither should you.