Hello and welcome to the movie blog of author John DeFrank - FilmZ and Guy Sobriquet Malone - Researcher


Widows review by FilmZ

Director Steve McQueen teamed with writer Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) to adapt the Widows screenplay from Lynda La Plante’s 1980s British TV series.  Rather than make a breezy, implausible Oceans 8-style romp, though, he crafted a dark, implausible heist film. We aren't saying Widows is implausible because women are pulling off the job. All of the male-dominated Oceans movies have been implausible, too.  Heck, most heist movies are, but some are inventive in planning and execution and don't rely on coincidence, dumb luck, or simply ignoring plot holes.  In this respect, Widows is better than Oceans 8, but not up with the genre's top films.  But then, McQueen and Flynn have bigger ideas: Black citizens taking back their communities, Chicago backroom politics, feminist agency, and Black Lives Matter.  And it is yet another example of a strong, original content film with terrific actors that underperforms at the box office.  [Listen folks, stop begging for movies like this if you're not going to go out to see them.]

Veronica (Viola Davis), a teacher's union rep, Linda (Michelle Rodriquez) a dress shop owner and mother of two, and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) a physically abused wife, find themselves alone and in trouble after Veronica's husband Harry (Liam Neeson) led the husbands to their deaths in the getaway from an armed robbery.  The women are in dire circumstances because their husbands robbed $2 million from local hood Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry).  Jamal visits Veronica and gives her a month to repay her husband's debt, the implicit threat insured by the reputation of his psychotic  brother Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya).  Jamal must present an air of respectability, though, because he hopes to become the first Black alderman of his community, unseating Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell), scion of a family dynasty that includes his father and advisor Tom (Robert Duvall).

Veronica comes upon Harry's notebook which includes meticulous plans for his next heist.  The notebook itself would be worth the debt she owes.  But Veronica proposes that she, Linda, and Alice finish what their husbands started with an even bigger payday.  Initially, Linda and Alice are reticent, but when Linda learns that her husband had gambled away her dress shop, and Alice's mother (Jacki Weaver) suggests that the only thing her daughter is qualified to be is an escort, desperation pushes all three women together.  The plan requires a reliable driver, though, and none of the women qualify.  Enter Belle (Cynthia Erivo), a hairdresser and single mom who babysits Linda's kids to make ends meet.  Now they are four.  Unbeknownst to Veronica, Jatemme has been tailing her. Meanwhile, the Alderman's race heats up, with an insiders look at politics, Chicago-style, where neither incumbent nor challenger is admirable, much less ethical.

If all of this seems cluttered and disjointed, it's really not.  Yes, one might argue that McQueen is taking on too many issues, but he and Flynn slowly leak revelations that lead to several cool-to-excellent plot twists as all characters and subplots come together.  The issues also intertwine and meld.  The Hans Zimmer score is a highlight, establishing a sense of urgency and intrigue while remaining unobtrusive.  A small complaint: for a thriller, things grind along slowly at times.  And one more.  Why hire a talent like Carrie Coon for a couple of scenes, ones in fact that any competent actress could do?  Here, she feels like little more than a plot device.  Overall, though, the film is well-cast and boasts uniformly outstanding performances   We initially thought Widows was going to be a significant Oscar player, but the disappointing box office, despite critical enthusiasm, dampens that.  Still, though, it leaves us with a really good heist film with important social commentary.
8.0 out of 10


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