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Movie Review: “Widows”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Theatrical Release: 11/16/2018

Theatrical Release: 11/16/2018

Synopsis

After a job goes horribly wrong, Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson) and his men ended up on the wrong side of a shootout with the law. Everyone in Harry’s crew—including Harry himself—were killed in the incident, and 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 the kind of money that Jamal is demanding. Desperate, she turns to the notebook that Harry left her. The notebook contains details the jobs that Harry had been planning before getting himself killed, and Veronica sees this as the answer to her problem. Veronica could sell the book to Jamal, but she instead decides to take matters into her own hands. She turns to the wives of Harry’s men to form a team of widows, with the intention of completing a job from Harry's book. They are all desperate, and they all have something to gain from the money they could get from the job, but do they have what it takes to live the lives of their fallen husbands?

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

The Premise (+3pts)

The Plot (-10pts)

Viola Davis (+5pts)

The Pandering (-5pts)

Elizabeth Debicki (+6pts)

Focus (-10pts)

movie-review-widows

Pro: The Premise (+3pts)

I thought the premise was interesting enough for me to give the movie a shot, but I do not think this premise was as effective today as it probably 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 as action heroes, and we see them in the real world, in professions that many once—and some unfortunately still do—considered to be jobs for men. Why not get around this by having one of Harry's crew members be a woman, who left behind a widower? By having all of the widows be women, the movie was trying to make a statement that women could do any job man could do, but I think it would have been far more effective in this day and age to have at least one man struggling to step into the shoes of his late wife. This would have modernized this premise from what it was in the 80s, and I think it would have made more of a statement regarding the equality of men and women. Nonetheless, I still thought the premise was effective enough, as it got me to watch the movie.

movie-review-widows

Con: The Plot (-10pts)

I honestly do not know what other people saw in this movie. The plot was always either 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 went wrong and killed the group of men. It then kept cutting back and forth between flashbacks, as the filmmakers tried to show the widow's heist, while simultaneously setting up the characters’ relationships with their dead husbands. Doing it this way, diminished both timelines. I did not care or worry about the widows relationships with their husbands, because I already knew the fate of those husbands. Additionally, the widow's heist became less effective, because the filmmakers kept disrupting the pacing of that story in order to show pointless flashbacks.

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 one. It made the whole thing felt hollow, meaningless, and incoherent, and it all 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, and it would have given us a more impactful climax. Instead, we got a plot that felt like it was chopped up and rearranged, all for the sake of making it feel smart and mysterious, but I thought telling the story this way ended up ruining it.

movie-review-widows

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 nonetheless. At times, it felt like she was over-acting, but I think it would be fair to contribute that to poor writing. She cried a lot, and Cryola Davis—see what I did there?—effectively brought the drama and emotion to the character that the role needed her to, despite the fact that the filmmakers forced her to tap that well over and over again. If the writing around the character was better, it could have given Viola Davis more juicy material to sink her teeth into, but I thought she did a decent job with what she had here.

movie-review-widows

Con: The Pandering (-5pts)

I did not think this severely hurt the movie on its own, 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 it 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 these issues, and make audiences think differently about them. Unfortunately, Widows did 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 was as if the filmmaker’s went down a checklist of topics to mention, with the hopes that simply mentioning them would make audiences automatically like the movie. If you are going to put these things in your movie, then really tackle them. Otherwise, audiences like myself will be left disappointed, feeling like you only shoved them in this movie in a lazy attempt to pander to the audience, rather than actually writing a compelling story about them.

movie-review-widows

Pro: Elizabeth Debicki (+6pts)

It took me awhile for it to click, but I recognized Elizabeth Debicki, and ended up remembering that she played the main gold woman in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. It was a fun little thing to notice, but regardless, I thought she did a really good job 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, and she was 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. She went through a lot, and while I did not care for the character's romantic storyline, it was a complex character that I thought Elizabeth Debicki did a great job of bringing to the screen in a compelling way.

movie-review-widows

Con: Focus (-10pts)

While the plot was either boring or nonsensical, the plot issues were 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 with this movie. The movie would cut from a random character flashback that added nothing to the story, to a random speech that pandered to a topical issue, to a scene that moved the plot forward with no real weight or emotion. By not trimming some of the unnecessary and shallow things, the entire movie suffered.

The movie felt chopped up and nothing was given the time necessary to be fleshed out properly. It reminded me of when someone is telling a story, but goes on a thousand tangents before getting to the point, leaving you there, bug-eyed, thinking of ways to escape the conversation. I did not like the movie, and I think the lack of focus by the filmmakers was a major reason why. The movie just felt incoherent, and sloppy, and I think it needed someone to come in and give it some sort of vision.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

movie-review-widows

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 real 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, as the filmmakers unnecessarily dragged it out in some areas, while skipping right over important, more interesting events. The filmmakers resorted to shameless pandering by bringing up topical issues, as they only made surface level mentions of these things and never dove into any of them. The movie felt chopped up, like the filmmakers scrambled the movie into a compilation of meaningless, unrelated scenes. I acknowledge that most reviews of this movie disagree with mine, but I can only comment on my experience. If you see this movie, I honesty hope you disagree with me on it, because to me it felt boring, incoherent, and shallow.