Thursday, 14 November 2019

Heroine Fix: Ocean's 8's Awesome Girl Gang

Each month I focus on a well-written heroine who inspires and influences my own writing.  What can I say?  I'm addicted to awesome heroines!  You can check out all of my Heroine Fixes to see some amazing characters.  Warning: this post will contain spoilers.

This month I asked myself a question: why do I love movies about thieves so much?  There's only so much blame I can place on Kevin Costner and Christian Slater in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.  I think there's a certain level of admiration for the audacity and skill it takes for a successful non-violent heist.  We admire people who defy the rules successfully.

I think that's the reason I love the Ocean's series.  A complicated scheme full of misdirection and false leads, it's like a magic trick that ends up with people getting rich.  But as much as I enjoy the Brad Pitt and George Clooney versions, it's the Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett movie that I've watched dozens of times over.

If you follow my blog, you know I love awesome heroines.  This movie has an amazing set of heroines and it's how they interact and play off one another that makes this one of my favourites.  All female ensemble movies are still rare and seen as a risk.  This one takes eight unique and interesting characters and puts them all together in the heist of a lifetime.

First up is Debbie, sister to George Clooney's character and played by Sandra Bullock.  She's the brains and balls behind the whole operation.  She's not content with petty cons and day to day theft.  Fresh out of jail, she wants to be one of the big names in crime.  Her first recruit is her best friend, Lou (Cate Blanchett), a more practical individual who manages people and logistics well.  The dynamic between the two of them is brilliant.  The film captures the easy combination of support and challenge that happens between two women who can trust one another and have a long history of having each other's backs.

The rest of the team is equally fascinating.  Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter) is a washed up fashion designer with a pressing tax issue.  Easily distracted with an impulse control issue, she is the key to the team gaining access to their target, a $150 million dollar diamond necklace.  A jewel heist needs a great jewelry expert and in steps Amita (Mindy Kaling), who is more than ready to move out from under her mother's thumb and the skills to transform the necklace into something less... recognizable.  Rose and Amita make a great team.  Amita is able to improvise around Rose's blatherings and Rose is capable of some impressive last-minute bullshitting.  The two of them convince Cartier to loan out the necklace for the Met Gala.

Every heist needs a hacker and a pickpocket.  Nine Ball (Rihanna) and Constance (Awkwafina) fill those roles.  Nine Ball is arrogant and confident.  She and Debbie butt heads, as two proud alphas are wont to do.

Constance is quirky and not easily impressed, competent but not inclined to fuss over a job.  The final team member is Tammy (Sarah Paulson), the team's fence and procurer.  I think she's my favourite, because I always love a suburban mom with a secret life.  There are hints of a past between her and Debbie, one that hasn't always been smooth.

Those counting will realize there are only seven team members so far.  The final member of the team is their mark, the celebrity Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway).  She will be the unwitting mule for the necklace and the main distraction.

Since plenty of ensemble movies only have one female main character, we often get deprived of the fun of women interacting with one another.  There's a whole language of shared sisterhood, amusement over the foibles and challenges of the world, and the pleasure of mutual delight over pretty clothes and jewels.  We can be smart, competent and glamorous, all at the same time.  And as much as women can tear each other down, we can also build each other up in a way that men simply don't experience.  Women know the truth of Debbie Ocean's statement that "a him gets noticed, a her gets ignored."  And we cheer when the ignored manage to turn the tables on the society that overlooks our accomplishments.

Maybe that's why women bond more easily and more often than men.  Life as a woman is too big of a challenge to manage completely on one's own.  We need our friends, the ones who become like sisters.  Our friendship support networks can be incredible resources.  And when we work together, we really can do amazing things.  (Legal disclaimer: please stick to amazing legal things, no matter how cool a jewel heist seems.)

Ocean's 8 inspired me to want to write about my own little girl gang.  Not jewel thieves but friends running a cosplay business together.

Every woman should get to experience the combined thrill of achievement and looking amazing that the Ocean's 8 gang gets, walking out of the Met Gala in stunning dresses with millions of dollars in diamonds.  That's moment I watch this movie for.  They're all confident and beautiful, and together they've done what should have been impossible.

Just before the heist, Debbie thanks her crew.  "I just wanna say: thank you.  The last three weeks have been amazing for me... whatever happens tonight, I want you to remember one thing.  You are not doing this for me, you are not doing this for you.  Somewhere out there is an eight year old girl, lying in bed, dreaming of being a criminal.  Let's do this for her."

Every girl should believe she can achieve her dreams, no matter what they are.  Stories about strong and interesting women help us to remember that.  Stories that end in a happily ever after are even better.  The women of Ocean's 8 don't find romance, but they do get the necklace, along with the other crown jewels, and they pin the whole thing on the man who broke Debbie's trust and sent her to jail.  

With a take of $38.3 million each, each woman gets a shot at her dreams.  Amita finds love and freedom in Paris.  Rose opens her own shop in London.  Tammy's garage business moves to a proper warehouse.  Nine Ball opens a pool hall and bar.  Constance gets an amazing loft apartment.  Daphne moves from the front of the camera to directing.  Lou gets her motorcycle and a cross country trip.  And Debbie gets the satisfaction of proving herself.

Maybe that's why I love these kinds of movies.  The idea of a big win, one that frees from the daily worries about money, one that makes all the "I wish"es possible, that's satisfying, no matter how it comes about.

Even without a romance plot, I call that a darn happy ending.

Previous Heroine Fix: Making a Better World With Delenn from Babylon 5

Previous Post: Reclaiming My HEA: Reigniting the Romantic Spark

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