Widows is crammed with star power, blessed with an engaging but tricky plot, and is a paen to female empowerment. I was expecting lots of action from the women, but the story built slowly toward a few moments of action at the end.
Viola Davis as Veronica was the alpha wolf and she lead her pack to a somewhat surprising but satisfactory outcome. With a cast lead by women and plot lines that graze quickly upon fidelity, race, corruption, sexism, and domestic abuse there’s substance underpinning this drama.
As the story began, 4 male criminals were making their getaway. Most notable among them was Veronica’s husband Harry (Liam Neeson). The crooks were burned to a crisp after a shootout with police. Veronica was left with the key to a box that contained Harry’s book. The book contained plans for all his crimes, including the next one.
Veronica gathered two of the other widows: Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki). I found it odd that she didn’t include the fourth widow, Amanda (Carrie Coon). This was explained in a plot twist later in the story.
The three widows agreed to do the next job in Harry’s book. They were all completely broke. Political hopeful Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry) was demanding $2 million from Veronica to cover the money that burned up with Harry and the gang. According to Harry’s book, the heist would net enough to pay off Manning and give the women a million each to boot.
There were a lot of politicians in this Chicago-based story. In addition to Manning, there were the Mulligans. Tom Mulligan (Robert Duvall) and his son Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell) were a dynasty of Chicago aldermen, but Jamal Manning was polling well in the upcoming election against Jack Mulligan. I kept wondering why there were so many corrupt politicians running about. It was almost like a separate story. Of course, it all became clear as the plot twisted its way to the end.
The women needed a fourth – a driver. They rather haphazardly recruited Linda’s babysitter Belle (Cynthia Erivo). She turned out to be perfect.
Jamal Manning’s brother Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya) was responsible for much of the violence and killing in the film. He was in charge of following Veronica around as she tried to come up with the $2 million. One more complication in the numerous complications that arose in the excitement of the actual heist.
Much of the nuance in Widows comes from the settings and objects in scenes that aren’t mentioned. The above image of the Manning brothers lounging against a monument in a Chicago cemetery is a good example. There’s so much there, but it isn’t spoken about. It’s visual information. The music choices were another example of adding meaning without directly putting it into the plot.
The women had a plan. They had a van and guns and masks and Darth Vader voice disguises. They practiced a bit, knew their roles. It was on.
As I said, it was not all action. There was plenty of slow time. There were times of grief, especially for Veronica, who loved Harry. She and Harry lost a son who was shot by the police for driving while black. Veronica grieved over him, too.
There were a number of remarkable scenes and flashbacks between Viola Davis and Liam Neeson kissing passionately or being affectionate. I love that Viola Davis gets to play sexy parts at this point in her career. That alone makes the whole movie worthwhile.
Davis played Veronica as tough and all business as she organized the heist, but she softened a bit for her dog. A credit should go to Olivia, the little Westie. Veronica took her everywhere. The dog played an important role in the plot.
The other widows were rather happy to be rid of their men. Alice was battered by her husband. Alice’s mother (Jacki Weaver) encouraged her to sign up to date men on a sugar daddy type dating site when she learned how broke Alice was. Her date turned out to have just the information the women needed, so it was necessary for the plot. Unlike the sexy moments with Viola Davis, I thought the sex scenes with Elizabeth Debicki went too far and were unnecessarily graphic. We could have gotten the point with less.
A touch of humor there, casting the two Australians in the movie as mother and daughter.
Linda’s husband gambled away everything, including her dress shop. Her little bodega was completely destroyed by his creditors. She was one mad mama.
The three widows went from being dependent wives to empowered women who could stand up to anything. Even though their growth involved a crime, it was a strong message for a film to deliver.
Overall, Widows was perfectly executed with plot twists in keeping with the empowerment the women found within themselves. The acting talent was perfection.
Widows was directed by Steve McQueen with a screenplay by Gillian Flynn and Steve McQueen. It was based on the novel Widows by Lynda La Plante.