WIDOWS – Review by Susan Granger
Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) and co-writer Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) have come up with a compelling crime caper that has more twists and turns than a corkscrew!
Living in a luxurious penthouse high above Lake Michigan on Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive, elegant, educated, union organizer Victoria Rawlings (Viola Davis) never paid much attention to her felonious husband Harry’s (Liam Neeson) shady business – until one of his robberies goes awry and she’s left a widow, along with the wives of his crew.
In her grief, Victoria’s accosted by ambitious politician Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry) and his psychotic/enforcer brother (Daniel Kaluuya). Jamal’s in a heated political campaign for local alderman against corrupt Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell), who hopes to ‘inherit’ the seat recently vacated by his ailing father, Tom (Robert Duvall). Apparently, Harry owes Jamal a couple million dollars.
Left with little choice but settle her husband’s debt, Victoria assembles the other despairing, penniless wives (Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki) in a posh sauna, where they begin to plot a $5 million theft, following an intricate strategy that Harry left in a meticulously detailed notebook. Later, they’re joined by an intrepid getaway ‘driver’ (Cynthia Erivo).
“Yes, our heist-planning involves Tupperware,” Victoria explains. “You got a problem with that?”
Based on a British television series, the gritty script by McQueen and Flynn tackles issues of poverty, race, gender, class, politics, religion, and police brutality – as the savvy women use other people’s clichéd expectations of them to their advantage. And the complicated backstory of each of the complex characters is thoughtfully delineated.
“I wanted to get the biggest, broadest audience I could possible get,” McQueen says, “while at the same time not letting go of the things I believe in intellectually, philosophically and politically.”
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Widows” is an empowering 8, as women steal the show.