Summary: Just days after her husband (Liam Neeson) is killed during a heist job, Veronica (Viola Davis) is saddled with his debts and chooses to follow his lead.
Part political drama, part heist, part actor’s piece, 100% women’s empowerment, Widows is director Steve McQueen’s dramatic take on a heist movie that is centered around two politicians, Mulligan and Manning (Colin Farrell and Bryan Tyree Henry aka Paperboi), set on ruining the other’s campaign by robbing the crap out of each other. While robbing Manning in the name of Mulligan, Neeson is killed and Manning pins his acts on his wife, Veronica. Veronica then chooses to round up he other widows whose husbands were also killed, to carry out Neeson’s last planned robbery.
This could have been better. I really want to like this movie. It’s like Baby Driver if all the cars were replaced by actors- the cast does a lot with little and they are the best part of the movie. (I won’t lie- I saw the trailer and I was pretty much on board based on the names Viola Davis, Daniel Kaluuya, Paperboi, and Cynthia Erivo.) But when I left and all that shine was gone- dude. I have never left a theater for a crime, heist, or thriller flick asking as many questions as I did with Widows.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to be liked here- the cast, certain shots (especially the tracking), the jokes, the subtle commentary on gender and class and race and all that. I liked that- for the most part- the primary concern of the widows wasn’t falling in love or the lack of a partner, but really the maintenance of their lifestyle and still pursuing what else made them happy and successful. And dear god, the foreshadowing. There are so many little hints and drops here so that the twists are genuinely surprising but also fit into place. The process of watching this movie was a lot of fun, especially the set up and character introductions in the first act.
That first act is so good, you gladly hang out for the rest of ride. Honestly, it wasn’t until after leaving that I realized I had a ton of questions. If you couldn’t tell, I cannot, for the life of me, stop referring to the characters by their real-life names with the exception of Paperboi- and that’s Bryan Tyree Henry’s character on Atlanta. And for a pretty vast ensemble cast, they simultaneously spend too much time and too little time on anyone that’s not Davis- some of the characters that they spend a lot of time on have little to no closure at the end, but we do get results for some of the more underdeveloped characters.
With all of those supporting members, it just opens up the story a lot more and leaves a ton of plot holes scattered throughout. I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but I’ll just say that the story leaves a lot to be desired. Half of the character set up isn’t touched on again by the end. I’m not sure how Neeson is in cahoots with Mulligan or… what he did for a living before all of that, being married to a prominent figure in the teacher’s union… or how the math of the debt works out… or how robbing one and then robbing another makes any sort of sense or how… Neeson would have pulled off a heist by himself or…. why Mulligan’s father says he’s leaving but lives in the campaign house… or what’s in the box!? Really! That’s not a reference! There’s a box and why? Why does it matter? I have a feeling that this movie was supposed to be maybe three hours and they were forced to cut it down to two hours and ten minutes.
There are a lot of side characters that genuinely don’t need so much screen time and they’re also not fun or interesting side characters where the time devoted to them is worth it, with the exception being Kaluuya. I think, perhaps, Widows would have benefitted from cutting out a lot of the extraneous material that didn’t revolve around Davis’ Veronica and Neeson’s character (whatever his name is). The meat of the movie is really between these two, the history of their marriage, and Davis’ handling of grief. There are some truly golden moments in their storyline that are handled really well. If it hadn’t gotten carried away in the side quests, this would have had a much stronger and concise foundation. I want to like this movie. Someone make an edit!