‘Widows’ shortchanges its female talent

Release Date: November 16, 2018
Cast: Viola Davis, Liam Neeson, Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez, Colin Farrell
Director: Steve McQueen
Studio: Regency Enterprises; Film4; See-Saw Films
Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Rating:

Review Spoilers: Low
IMDB | Wikipedia | RT 

Widows is an action-adventure thriller that follows three women as they try to reclaim their lives and their fortunes after the gruesome deaths of their criminal husbands. Ultimately, the women’s caper plays sideshow to an ambitious, politically-motivated gangster plot that doesn’t quite stick the landing.

This movie had a ton of potential, but it quickly swerved off course. And I think it’s for one simple reason. For a movie titled Widows, it focuses an awful lot on men: male power, male dominance, systemic toxic masculinity EVERYWHERE.

For accuracy, I recommend re-titling the movie “House of Cards in Chicago With Special Guests Liam Neeson and Colin Farrell” and just cutting the fifth of the scenes in the movie that actually involved the women. Added bonus: this choice will provide significant cost savings by removing the actresses’ contract fees.

Seriously. For a movie about Widows there are hardly any scenes about the widows! There’s no hard, sustained look at the three women. Character development is glanced at and then quickly hidden by gun violence, a Chicago political race, and men with shoddy Irish accents.

The women don’t get the chance to bond or grow together, and their heist plot at the end of the movie feels like an afterthought. It’s all hastily constructed and poorly executed, and the true crime here is that the writers didn’t make good use of their A-list female talent.

That being said, none of this is a knock on the actresses involved in this movie- they were all acting so freakin’ hard. Davis has a scene where she looks in a mirror and subtly changes her expression five times that should be used in every Julliard recruitment video from now to eternity. The women pulled their weight, but the writing failed them.

Widows is a much less slick, male-centric, less funny, more violent, version of Oceans 8. It exploits the same ‘women getting it done for themselves’ vibe as Oceans without earning any of the chemistry, heart, or humor.

Much of the plot focuses on male violence. Gang violence, political violence, domestic violence. It’s a slow, close-up look at cruelty perpetrated almost exclusively by male characters. From botched heists to betrayal, even after death, the widowed women are left to clean up their husband’s messes. Which would also be a valid theme to explore, if the film then examined the emotional and physical toll these widows had to endure and grow from as a result of their complex, often toxic, relationships with men. Spoiler alert: it didn’t.

Final gripes: the movie was paced too slow to enjoy. Also, it had a fetish for close-up, zoomed in shots and shaky camera work, which had the added benefit of making me physically nauseous.

Ultimately, I wish I got more female rage and hope and depth and sadness and ingenuity than I did in this movie. The film focused way too much on the male leads and the political story line at the expense of the women.  The twists were good, the acting was fabulous, but I needed more widows from Widows.