Monday, November 19, 2018

Widows: Not What It Appears

Steve McQueen's Widows was not the low-budget dumb heist movie that I thought it was going to be. From the trailers, I thought I was going to see something along the lines of other 2018 female empowerment flops like Proud Mary or Peppermint.

Widows, however, is an extremely intelligent and purpose-driven movie that weaves multiple plot lines into an intricate cat's cradle that finally comes together at the end.

So what's our plot?

At the beginning of the movie, we're introduced to four men in a getaway van, intercut with shots of them interacting with their wives. Within the first five minutes, all four men are dead after the heist goes sour, and the women are left to fend for themselves.

I'm going to interrupt myself right here. Because at this point, within the first 20 minutes of the movie is where it veers away from the usual. I mean, traditionally, this is where a bad movie would have these women saying "I'm mad my husband's dead and I want revenge" and then a rag-tag group of tough girls comes together and becomes besties out of nowhere and kick a bunch of guys in the balls while saying something clever or something. But that's not what happens here.

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"Just to be clear, we're not here to kick guys in the balls."

Surprisingly, it veers off in another direction entirely. We're introduced to two characters, the Manning brothers, one of whom is running for office and the other who is a vicious psychopath ensuring his victory. We're also introduced to a ton of other characters, but the main plot line here is that Veronica (Viola Davis), wife of the head thief (played by Liam Neeson, by the way), owes the Manning brothers the money that was lost in the failed heist. Bringing the other widows together and going off of her late husband's heist plan book, they try to figure out if they can pull off stealing $5 million to settle their debts and live the lives their husbands ruined.

Other plot lines include Manning's political opponent (Colin Farrell) and the idea of political dynasties, Jamette Manning (Daniel Kaluuya) being a psychopath, the lives of all the women, and a couple other things.

Good things: the movie is super interesting in the way it approaches the subject matter. I've had more than one rant about how lazy feminist cinema translates poorly in the theater (I'm looking at you Ghostbusters and Ocean's 8), but this is done with a ton of consideration. It doesn't really state that the women are particularly smart or special--they end up getting shit done because they see no other choice. In going this route, it's really a spectacular example of women's resilience and resourcefulness. Each widow is tasked with doing something that she doesn't know how to do and she figures out a way to get it done. That's cooler than kicking guys in the balls, I'm sorry.

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Bad bitches, suuuuuppp

On that note, this movie takes almost no time to talk about any of the thieves besides Liam Neeson, which is interesting. It takes care not to be a revenge film, and in fact none of the widows really seem that wild about their deceased husbands anyway. One gambles away all their money, one hits his wife, one doesn't seem very attentive -- these are not men that our heroines need, and actually the reason all of them get into the heist is so that they can right the wrongs that their dead husbands dumped on them.

The movie's ending was a pleasant surprised too -- and not in the usual "I NEVER SAW THAT COMING" kind of way, but more of a "Ooooooh, that makes sense... Cool!" kind of way.

And now for the critiques: the movie drags a bit before it finds its feet. I've got to say, I found the first half to be a little disorienting. McQueen is an artist and the movie almost reads like a graphic novel in the beginning, full of little vignettes that explain actions and characters by showing pieces of their days. But frankly, for a heist movie (typically built on withholding details), all of these little vignettes can get a bit overwhelming.

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Was I supposed to remember that? Is that significant? 
Who's that person? Do we need to know them?? 

Though the pay-off at the end makes everything come together neatly in an intricate braid, getting there definitely takes some patience.

7 outa 10. I love McQueen's cinematography and how he transcends the heist genre to make a female-driven movie that's really interesting. Though it might be a little slow for some, and definitely not the film it appears from its trailer!


7 comments:

  1. Saying the beginning is like a graphic novel is so spot on. I couldn't put my finger on it. It just came off as a bit jarring. Great review! I liked this too.

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