Rating4.0 / 5
Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki
November 22 2018
Twentieth Century Fox
Steve McQueen once again deals with innocent characters facing desperate situations in Widows, a reimagining of the classic British TV drama.
Widows is a movie that works, despite several fundamental flaws, simply because it is pitched at a level most of the human population will identify with. It is about a group of blue-collar women who must first grieve their dead husbands and then redeem themselves from the brink of desperation by breaking the law. This is a violent and cruel film, but also intimately unnerving in the way it presents life pushing people to the edge.
It is led by a stunning performance from Viola Davis, who employs her icy face to chilling effect. Her husband is the successful bank robber Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson), who, right from the get-go, is slaughtered along with his three accomplices when a heist goes terribly wrong. We get glimpses into who the men were. One was abusive, another apathetic, another irresponsible. As far as we can tell, they lived for crime. But their stories take a backseat to their wives’, who have to contend with the sudden life-threatening consequences left for them.
Just as nasty is the parallel plot of two politicians competing for alderman of a Chicago precinct. One is Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry), a ruthless crime boss who wants repaid the $2 million stolen from him. The other is Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell), the wealthy white aristocrat eager to escape daddy’s shadow. And of course ther eare the other widows, played by Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki and Carrie Coon, so you can see how full this story is. There’s even room for Cynthia Erivo as an overly agreeable babysitter. And yet Widows plays easily, because it has a very clear through-line.
It is basically about a heist, but in clever ways it also deals with sexism, misogyny, racial alienation, the American gun society and perhaps most obviously, feminism. It is directed by Steve McQueen and written by McQueen and Gillian Flynn, whose previous Gone Girl also had a warped notion of gender empowerment.
Now, there is a twist that, naturally, I will keep to myself. It throws a bunch of questions into the air and contradicts certain motives. It made me wonder who knew what and how deeply they knew it. It forced me to doubt a character’s integrity. It even made me question the plausibility of the entire premise. But because the plot is so easily accessible, when the tension-filled climax finally arrived, I found myself on the edge of my seat.
Images courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox