Academy Awards Watch – Widows Review: Venomous Bite, Too Few Legs

 

Widows is the story of Veronica (Viola Davis), Alice (Elizabeth Debicki), and Linda (Michelle Rodriguez). When their husbands perish in a heist gone awry, along with the money they were attempting to steal, these three women find themselves in the crosshairs of the men at the target of the robbery. Now under threat to payback what was lost, the women band together to pull off their own score in the hopes of making everyone a little more whole again.

What works in Widows is Viola Davis and the themes of female empowerment. As the de facto leader of the thieves, Davis is a force with a sharp commanding presence. Her no-nonsense, calculating, steely demeanor is truly engaging as she moves among a sea of pompous men like a shark among minnows. Writer/director Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave) allows Davis to shine with solid material, which is used to create a complex and what may end be an iconic character in Veronica.

RELATED: New Trailer For Widows Reveals More Plot, Drama, and Action

Widows may sell tickets because of the thrilling action it promises—which the film delivers on—but at its heart, this is a narrative about strong women. Each of the three women at the core of Widows are damaged due to the actions of their late husbands. Their plan of action is fueled by determination and underestimation as each vow, “never again” a credo that has personal meaning to each woman’s journey. McQueen sets up these narrative arcs with purpose, layering in messages of chauvinism to give the necessary reminder that gender inequality is alive and well.

While Widows benefits from Viola’s imposing performance and emboldened themes, the individual plot threads never quite become taut. Circling the central heist, several subplots swirl and McQueen gets occasionally caught up in trying to preserve the mystery and giving audiences enough to follow along. This is not to say that the connective tissue doesn’t exist—it very well might—the roadmap simply isn’t marked well enough, especially with the multitude of characters McQueen shuffles into frame. This might lead to confusing developments with audiences that aren’t paying rapt attention.

Widows also suffers a little bit with how it wants to develop its identity. Each of the women at the core are finally standing up for themselves, but at the same time trying to form bonds with their new fellow crew members. There’s an unfortunate sense of disbelief not that any of these women would try to pull off a heist, but rather they would even think about attempting it with the other women would be a good idea. There is no cohesion among the trio, and thus hard to accept that they would trust each other to the level necessary for success. Each woman has they own, rightfully earned, agenda and thus seeing them come together (regardless of impetus or external forces) unfortunately feels unnatural.

Widows is an important movie because it places women in the spotlight of the heist action drama genre, a cinematic category historically (and essentially completely) dominated by men. Despite some problematic plot holes, Widows is a fairly solid ride of entertainment driven by fantastic female performances.

Recommended if you enjoyed: Heat, Enough, Ocean’s 8

FINAL GRADE: B+

Probable Academy Award Nominations

  • Best Actress in a Leading Role – Viola Davis

Possible Academy Award Nominations

  • Best Picture
  • Best Director – Steve McQueen

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