Movie Review: “Widows”
When a job goes sideways, Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson) and his men end up on the wrong side of a shootout with the law. Everyone in Harry’s crew (including himself) are dead. Unfortunately, the money they had stolen was destroyed in the process. The money belonged to a very powerful man, named Jamal (Brian Tyree Henry), a man who intends on getting his money back by any means necessary. With Harry dead, Jamal sets his sights on Harry’s widow, Veronica (Viola Davis).
There is just one problem, Veronica does not have anywhere near that kind of money. Desperate, she turns to the notebook that Harry had left her. Harry’s notebook contains details of the upcoming jobs that Harry had been planning. Veronica could sell the book to Jamal, but decides to take matters into her own hands. Thus, she turns to the wives of Harry’s men to form a team of widows. They are all desperate, but do they have what it takes to live the lives of their fallen husbands?
The Pros & Cons
The Premise (+3pts)
The Plot (-10pts)
Viola Davis (+5pts)
The Pandering (-5pts)
Elizabeth Debicki (+6pts)
Pro: The Premise (+3pts)
I know Widows was a television series once upon a time, but I never saw it, so this premise was interesting to me. It is ridiculous, but hooked me. A group of widows come together and decide to pull off the next heist that their late husbands had planned. It is a ridiculous premise, but it intrigued me enough to want to see how the filmmakers pulled it off. Unfortunately, I felt that the filmmakers severely dropped the ball, but I will get into that later in this review. I liked seeing each of the widows and what drove them to join Veronica on her crazy mission and trying to live in their husbands’ world.
I thought the premise was interesting enough for me to give the movie a shot, but I do not think this premise is as effective today as it was at the time of the television series in the mid-80’s. We see women doing what men do all the time. We see them in action movies, and we see them, in the real world, in professions that were once viewed as “men’s” professions. My point is, this premise would have been groundbreaking decades earlier, but in 2018 the premise does not resonate quite as much because it is accepted, and common, to see women in similar roles. It served its purpose as a premise, it got me to watch. From there, the filmmakers had to follow through with a strong plot, and compelling stories for these women.
Con: The Plot (-10pts)
I honestly do not know what other people saw in this movie. The plot was always one of two things, boring or nonsensical. The premise was decent, but I thought the filmmakers did a terrible job of executing it. The movie startEd with the heist that goes wrong and kills the group of men. It then kept cutting back and forth between flashbacks as the filmmakers tried to show the heist while simultaneously setting up the characters’ relationships with their wives. It ends up diminishing both. The heist feels meaningless, and the relationships feel one-dimensional or hollow.
Without spoiling anything, let me just say that the plot issues do not get any better from there. After seeing the movie, I cannot help but feel like the filmmakers started the movie in the wrong spot. It was like they started in the middle of the second act of the story, then stretched out the rest of the second act while showing flashbacks to tell the audience what happened in the first act. As a result, we do not have any connection with what happened to the characters earlier. The whole thing felt hollow and meaningless, and could have been fixed by starting the movie with the young man getting pulled over (you will know what I mean if you see the movie). That would have given us a linear, coherent story with natural character progressions that would have given us a more impactful climax. Instead, we got a plot that felt like it was chopped up and rearranged, which I thought made it lose a lot of momentum.
Pro: Viola Davis (+5pts)
I will keep this brief, but as bad as I thought this movie was, it would have been a lot worse without the talented cast. Was this Viola Davis’ best performance? Far from it, but it was definitely a strong performance. At times, it felt like she was over-acting, but that can be contributed to the poor writing. She cries a lot, and Cryola Davis (...see what I did there?) taps into the character’s emotion well. Now if only the writing around the character was better. That could have given Viola Davis more impactful material to sink her teeth into.
Con: The Pandering (-5pts)
This alone did not severely impact the movie, but I could not help but notice how much shallow pandering the filmmakers shoved into this story. Racial discrimination, gender equality, black lives matter, and even female minority business owners. This movie touched on all of these very serious issues, but did not seem to have anything to say about any of them. The filmmakers did not dive into any of these issues or even try to deliver a unique story based on them. These are real issues that are important to talk about, and movies can be a great way of doing that, but the filmmakers wasted this opportunity.
The filmmakers seemed to use these serious topics to pander to those in the audience who actually deal with these things. I think movies are a great way to add unique perspectives to, and make the audience think differently about, these issues. Unfortunately, Widows does not offer anything new to the discussions of any of these topics. Thus, it comes across as a lazy way of pandering to the audience. It is the filmmaker’s way of saying “we know we do not need to write a creative plot, we just have to briefly mention these things and you will automatically like this movie“. If you are going to put these things in your movie, really tackle them. Otherwise, audiences like myself will be left disappointed that you did not.
Pro: Elizabeth Debicki (+6pts)
It took me awhile for it to click, but I remember seeing her as the main gold woman in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. It is a fun little fact but, either way, she was really good in this movie. While Viola Davis did a great job, there were plenty of moments when it felt like she was over-acting. Elizabeth Debicki, on the other hand, never gave me that impression.
Her character lost her husband, but is also dealing with the mental and emotional issues that come with regular domestic abuse. This character seemed to be the only one with a story arc that I could get invested in. The character has to get through a lot and, while I did not care for the romantic aspect of this role, I thought Elizabeth Debicki did a great job of portraying this complex character, and was arguably the best part of this movie.
Con: Focus (-10pts)
While the plot was either boring or nonsensical, the plot issues are amplified by the lack of focus by the filmmakers. Between the drawn out plot, too many characters to properly develop, and lazy pandering, the filmmakers definitely bit off more than they could chew. Scenes cut from a random character scene, to a random speech that panders using a topical issue, to a scene that moves the plot forward with no real weight or emotion. By not trimming some of the material that the filmmakers wanted to handle, everything suffered.
The film feels chopped up and nothing was given the time necessary to be fleshed out properly. It felt like when someone is telling you a story, but goes on a thousand tangents before getting to the point. I did not like the movie, and I think the lack of focus by the filmmakers was a major reason why. They tried to tell too much, and I thought it backfired.
Grade: D- (64pts)
I honestly do not get the massive disconnect between what most critics thought of the movie and what I thought of the movie. I thought this movie was a mess through and through. It was boring, it made no sense, and it was full of lazy writing that gave me the impression that the filmmakers were either too afraid or lacked the desire to make any statements with this movie. Some of the performances were strong, but it was not nearly enough to make up for the massive plot issues.
The plot was boring by dragging out the story unnecessarily in some areas, while skipping right over important, interesting events. The filmmakers resorted to shameless pandering by bringing up topical issues, but lacked the desire to make a statement about any of them. The focus was lacking by being so chopped up, it felt like the filmmakers scrambled the movie into a compilation of meaningless scenes. I acknowledge that most reviews of this movie disagree with mine, but I can only comment on my experience so must give you the truth. If you see this movie, I honesty hope you disagree with me on it, because it felt like a waste of money to me.