Ocean's 8: We're stuck with gender-swapping remakes until we show female stories sell
In fairness to Ocean’s 8 director Gary Ross, he didn’t deliberately and cynically set out to cash in on the current but long overdue panic in Hollywood that there aren’t enough female stories “out there.”
Rather, after he made the first Hunger Games film with Jennifer Lawrence in 2012, he was moved, he says, “to see how much it meant to girls to see Jennifer up there as the main protagonist.
“The idea just popped into my head then,” he says. “I realised we’d never seen an all-female ensemble like this before.”
However, Gary’s idea ending up as Ocean’s 8, starring Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway and Rihanna as half of a power octet, is entirely a deliberate and cynical ploy of Hollywood to cash in – and also, just like all-female Ghostbusters, a cautious bet. It’s a known brand – nobody can be labouring under the illusion Wonder Woman was made out of love for film-starved female audiences out there either. Hollywood tries to avoid risk like the G6 try to avoid Donald Trump; it’s not comfortable with it. Even the update of Tomb Raider was someone’s safe bet.
"It shows we're as commercial as the other gender."
So the eye-rolling and tutting that yet again we’ve got another mediocre gender-swapping ‘remake’ from Hollywood is pointless. Just like the lacklustre Ghostbusters before it, it’s got box office ($80 million in its first week in the USA) thanks to a mainly female audience turning up, and as Helena Bonham Carter says, “it shows that we’re as commercial as the other gender.”
That indeed is the point of Ocean’s 8. That will be the point of Nasty Women, the gender-swapping remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, starring Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson, which is going to spawn more opinion pieces. It’s neither here nor there that it’s a remake – someone tried to remake Pointbreak, remember? They did that not because of their contempt for our intelligence, but because they thought it would make money. ( Ha!)
We can all lament that Ocean’s 8 is a bit sexist in its plot (women only become criminals if there’s dressing up involved or getting back at a tosser ex boyfriend) and not delivering much in what Sandra Bullock calls “banter”, but it’s kind of enjoyable, and why are we holding them to such high standards? Did you see a Tom Cruise film recently? Why are we asking for Chekhov for girls?
It’s no good us just supporting the female-led blockbuster. We have to be willing to take our brains to the cinema, because there is still a perception that women’s ‘stories’ don’t ‘sell.’
If women want to see excellent original women’s stories, we have to get out to the cinema when these films actually get released. I’m talking about Ladybird and Tully, which both did tiny box office in comparison to their great reviews, I mean Winter’s Bone by Debra Granik and her upcoming masterpiece, Leave No Trace. We have to shell out to see Laura Dern and Elizabeth Debicki in The Tale, take a chance on seeing Saudi director Haifa Al Mansour’s Mary Shelley and take our daughters/sisters/nieces/god-daughters to The Breadwinner. It’s no good us just supporting the female-led blockbuster. We have to be willing to take our brains to the cinema, because there is still a perception that women’s ‘stories’ don’t ‘sell.’ And to be fair, wouldn’t they have a point?
I bet that’s why members of Ocean’s 8 signed up – because at the very least, it’s a highly commercial chance to show them otherwise.
Ocean’s 8 is released today in the UK.