No Concessions: McQueen makes good with ‘#Widows’

Steve McQueen returned to the screen and Oscar-buzz with his complex heist film Widows. Based on a Britsh series from the 1980s, Widows sees a trio of women forced to do the unthinkable once their criminal husbands perish. The film seems like a simple crime thriller, but underneath is an examination of Chicago’s ugly history with race and politics, while speaking to the #MeToo movement. While the performances are stellar, execution of each of these themes may be the film’s ulitmate, but only flaw.

Widows stars Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki and Michelle Rodriguez as our three wives. Davis delivers as Veronica Rawlings, the wife of Liam Neeson’s Harry. When she is threatned by an aspiring politician (Brian Tyree Henry) over a debt Harry owed him, she approaches Debicki’s Alice and Rodriguez’s Linda with a proposal neither of them can refuse. 

While this was an outfit meant for Davis, Debicki shines as the Polish-American Alice finding her voice. Rodriguez is good, but pales in comparison to her counterparts. Cynthia Erivo also appears, but in a much smaller capacity than first precieved. 

The other standout is Daniel Kaluuya as the ravenous Jatemme, brother and muscle for Henry’s Jamal Manning. We have always seen him in a “hero“ role, so I was estactic to see him on the other side. He envelopes every scene he’s in, right down to the end. 

The story is good, but with so many pieces, some are stronger than others. The civics lesson on Chicago is exceptional. One could almost argue the poitical system itself is a heist, with Chicago’s black population being the constant victims. 

The films nod to women’s rights is also interesting, as each widow must find her voice once untethered from a man. It is strongest in Debicki’s abused trophy wife who merely existed on her good looks — a strategy reiterated by her mother. I feel as a series, we could have explored this deeper with the other women.

The faults – though few – keep the film from best picture contention. The slow start is a bit disappointing. And an attempt to speak on police brutality felt underdeveloped. I also didn’t like Robert Duvall (or maybe I wasn’t supposed to) as Farrell’s bigoted father. 

Widows is a solid film that could garner some actor nominations (Davis, Debicki and Kayluaa). You’ll come for Viola and stay for the third act.  

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