What I’ve learned from men like my father and your husband is that you reap what you sow.
Let’s hope so.
Widows is an intriguing project for Steve McQueen. After three deadly serious films, he’s made a film that is still serious and dark, but is also an absolute crowd pleaser, something none of his other films ever made any pretensions to being. And it’s quite a large bite as it is; watching the film, I thought to myself that their was enough material present for a miniseries. Turns out that’s what it first was when a young McQueen stumbled across it in the early eighties. So, it’s a passion project and he’s assembled a cast of veterans that are gifted at sketching in characters quickly and easily.
I mean, let’s just run through them: Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Erivo, Bryan Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Garrett Dillahunt, Carrie Coon, Lukas Haas, Jackie Weaver & Liam Neeson. Time would fail me to try to talk about each of them individually, so let’s just say they’re perfect, like really perfect, like not a foot wrong. I’d single out a couple for special praise. Viola Davis is the intense force of charisma and command that holds the movie together; it’s a crime she doesn’t get more lead roles. Newcomer, at least to me, Cynthia Erivo has a brash, appealing swagger. And Daniel Kaluuya is affable, charming and terrifying as a gang enforcer. One last thing on the cast. Robert Duvall is god-awful. Like, seriously. I’ve seen him in a couple of things recently and he’s morphed into a complete cariacature of a screaming old man. I mean, you watch his early work and it’s his profound subtlety that captivates you. After his hilariously terrible turn in The Judge, I was hoping against hope that he’d been directed specifically to his performance in that film, but I guess not, because he’s just as annoyingly awful here. What a shame. He’s the one bad thing in this movie, in my opinion.
There’s been a lot of talk about how this is a great thriller, while also having a lot to say about racial issues, political issues, poverty, gender discrimination, etc. But the constant discussion of the thriller genre is kind of a good example of why I don’t like a lot of genre labels. Because you could also call this a political film or a gangster movie or any number of other things. But what it is . . . well, it’s a lot simpler. It’s something we just rarely see on the big screen these days: it’s called a drama. It’s just a drama about adults for adults. And, yes, there are criminals and politicians and all that, but, at it’s heart, it’s a sleek, heart-felt, perfect drama. The characters are compelling and interesting and the plot is entertaining. It’s kind of perfect in every way, right down to every single camera move. McQueen is an exacting director, I think, and it’s clear that he wants his films to be just exactly right and he’s pulled it off with Widows. Everything from costuming to music to lighting to set design to acting to cinematography . . . this is filmmaking on a level of precision rarely seen. But the miracle, I suppose, is that this doesn’t feel clinical; I think that’s down to McQueen’s ultimate love of character. Everything is perfect, but it’s perfectly in service of the characters. Widows is a movie that wears everything well, including it’s nearly two-and-a-half hour running time. At one point I glanced at the clock and was shocked to see that I was over ninety minutes into the film; it has this in common with a thriller, I guess: the damn thing moves. And like a well-oiled machine. 4 stars.
tl;dr – incredibly smart ensemble drama is a well-oiled machine and almost entirely perfect; a great cast in service of a great film. 4 stars.