Warning: This story contains spoilers for Ocean's 8.
We never really find out what Danny Ocean (George Clooney) would have done with the $160 million he stole in Ocean's 11, had Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) not tracked him and his crew down and demanded it back, plus $38 million in interest. (My guess is a tasteful villa on Lake Como, or a closet full of silk shirts for Rusty, Brad Pitt's character.)
If you need a refresher, the first Ocean's movie, from 2001, ends with Danny being carted off back to jail for breaking his parole, while the other guys gather in front of the Bellagio fountain in Las Vegas, contemplating the enormity of what they have just achieved. (Later we see Rusty picking up Danny from jail, but his extremely dumpy car leads me to believe he has not spent his money yet.)
Ocean's 8, the latest addition to the franchise that focuses around a job led by Danny's sister Debbie (Sandra Bullock), and her all-female crew, follows the narrative structure of its predecessor in almost every way, down to the opening in front of the parole board. "Gathering the crew" montage? Check. Job within a job? Check. Big twist finale? Check. And so it's interesting that when it comes to the ending, there's a clear shift.
The film also closes with a group shot, this time of all eight women glamorously riding the New York subway. But rather than allow them to slowly drift away individually, each getting off at their respective stops (where those would be is a whole other story unto itself, tbh), the camera zooms in on each woman, one at a time, giving us a glimpse of their post-heist life.
This isn't an unheard of set-up for this genre — 2003's The Italian Job, for example, had a similar montage. But what sets Ocean's 8 apart isn't that it shows its character spending their money, but rather what they spend it on. No one's buying "speakers so loud they blow women's clothes off." They're fulfilling their aspirations: becoming homeowners, investing in their skills, taking on new careers, breaking free from monotony, traveling, and sipping martinis with their (maybe) dead siblings.
It's no coincidence that this blockbuster with a powerhouse female cast ends the way it does. "What I love about these characters is that in their own way, they represent women who want economic empowerment, and women who want to forge their own path, and who maybe haven’t been allowed to do that for whatever reason," Olivia Milch, who co-wrote the film with director Gary Ross, said in an interview with Refinery29. "And that is not necessarily how you might interpret a popcorn heist movie, but I do think that there is a message of what are the options available to women, and how we sort of how we have to make our own way in the world, and create for ourselves opportunities that we want, when they’re not afforded to us."
A number of films released in the aftermath of the collective reckoning in Hollywood and beyond around issues of sexual harassment and assault have been labeled "#MeToo" movies. But Ocean's 8 feels like the first "Time's Up" movie, in the sense that it directly alludes to what women can achieve when they have true, long-lasting economic freedom and security. The most obvious wink to the movement, spearheaded by top Hollywood actresses in the early months of 2018, is the shot of Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) as a burgeoning female director (to which Milch, who recently directed her first film, Dude, says "YAS, AMEN."), working on a movie about her own life. "It's really not that hard," she sneers at the person behind the camera. She hasn't become nicer, or less of a diva, but neither is she underestimated. She now has the resources to be more than the starlet she was.
"That’s what’s so important for all audiences, however they identify in terms of gender or sexuality: to look up on the screen and see representation in this way, see women in all sorts of roles, see women of diverse backgrounds, and ages in all of these roles, and deciding what their fate is going to be," Milch explained. "That’s our little nod to the fact that we need more women in charge in all sorts of ways."
In the words of Milch herself: YAS, AMEN.