How did this film not work? It had everything going for it. It had every possible celebrity to star in it, renowned 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen, and a screenplay co-written by the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn. All signs were pointing to a success, but what did we get? A standard heist movie with non-clever twists, a muddled story that is all over the place, and a fairly disappointing cast. With a 92% given to the movie on Rotten Tomatoes, I know I’m in the minority, but I just don’t understand the major appeal.
The story follows three widows, played by Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Elizabeth Debicki, whose dead husbands were all killed while pulling off a heist: stealing $2 million from a political candidate/crime boss. Davis’ character is left behind a heist plan, with the payoff being $5 million. She needs the help from the two other widows to pull this off and save herself from the crime boss, as well as help the other two. This may seem simple, but you’re incorrect. There are so many things going on, it’s hard to comprehend it all. We have the widows heist, and all of their backstories and troubles. We have the crime boss and his crime endeavours, but also his political campaign. There’s also a plot line about the other candidate in that election and his relationship with his father. There is a babysitter girl, a henchman to the crime boss, another widow who’s not involved in the heist, a guy who is paying for a relationship with Debicki’s character, Davis’ husband, Davis’ personal driver, etc. In short, there is too much going on. I’m not the biggest fan of big ensemble movies as a gimmick. I feel like if you have as many characters as you can, with as many celebrities as you can, then you’re just copping out. Of course you will get butts in movie theater seats if there are a bunch of recognizable stars—it’s a cheap marketing ploy. An example of this is with Blue Sky Studios. They are the people behind Ice Age, Ferdinand, and most recently, The Star. Those movies try and get as many recognizable people as they can, no matter the role size, and market the movie with their names front and center. It is all in an attempt get people in seats at the movie theater.
The performances in this movie were not very outstanding at all. The usually fantastic Viola Davis was just average, and she didn’t really bring anything to the project. The other two widows, Elizabeth Debicki and Michelle Rodriguez, were also extremely underwhelming. Debicki tried her hardest, but it just felt like she didn’t have any screen presence in any scenes with the other actors. I am not a fan of Michelle Rodriguez, for I think she’s a bad actress. I have never liked her “I’m tough” schtick in the Fast and the Furious franchise, nor her more dramatic work in her debut film Girlfight. I have never taken her seriously as an actress, and she tries to act, but it just comes off as phoned-in and lazy. The stand out performances of the movie, for me, were Daniel Kaluuya, Brian Tyree Henry, Cynthia Erivo, and Garret Dillahunt. Kaluuya (Get Out, Black Panther) and Henry (FX’s Atlanta) bring so much tension into every scene they’re in. When they walked into a room, you weren’t sure what they would do. Erivo (Bad Times at the El Royale) and Dillahunt (Raising Hope) both play smaller characters, but they both stole each scene with their charm, charisma, and genuineness.
In the behind the scenes aspect, this film was very standard. The stand out part was the use of mostly whites and blacks, giving this film a chess aesthetic. However, the directing was very bland. I don’t remember any particular scene that shot out to me, and I wasn’t able to tell what his creative vision for the project was. The script was also very standard and forgettable. The only lines that I remember were the noticeably bad action one-liners they tried to shove in. I could compliment the film on having a consistent tone at least. No scene seemed exceptionally out-of-left field compared to any other.
Widows is a disappointment. I really wanted to like this film, so much so that I signed up to go watch it at midnight and get home around 3:00 am, but I just didn’t get any enjoyment from this film. I hope it doesn’t get Oscar buzz so that I don’t have to watch it again with my girlfriend and/or grandma. This film hurts me a little extra because there were so many good things going for it, but its opportunity was wasted.