Thanks to the British mini-series Widows (1983-1985). That 7-episode series inspired the film featuring an ensemble cast in modern-day Chicago, Illinois. The plot follows four women attempting to steal $5 million from the home of a prominent local politician to pay $2 million to a local crime boss. The women’s husbands were killed in a botched getaway attempt from that local crime boss. The film that resulted is Widows (2018).
(Screenwriter Gillian Flynn left, and Screenwriter/Director Steve McQueen of the film Widows).
Writing credits for the film go to director Steve McQueen and writer Gillian Flynn. The film opens with the depiction of a $2-million theft from a crime boss aiming for Chicago alderman named Jamal Manning. Manning (portrayed by Brian Tyree Henry) and his brother Jatemme (as portrayed by Daniel Kaluuya) are the initial crime victims who give Veronica (as portrayed by Viola Davis) the ultimatum to return the cash set on fire in one month’s time.
(Daniel Kaluuya as Jatemme Manning, left, and Brian Tyree Henry, right, as Jamal Manning in the film Widows).
The heist gone wrong was established by Harry Rawlings, as portrayed by Liam Neeson, husband to Veronica. The spouses Linda (as portrayed by Michelle Rodriguez), Alice (as portrayed by Elizabeth Debicki), and Amanda (as portrayed by Carrie Coon) died in the fire. For a significant portion of the film, it was presumed that Harry Rawlings had also died and left a book depicting his past crimes for Veronica to use for extortion purposes following his presumed passing.
(Liam Neeson as Harry Rawlings and Viola Davis as Veronica in the film Widows).
Unable to gain a meaningful extortion from the criminal past of her husband, Veronica convinced Linda and Alice to participate in the detailed heist left behind by Harry Rawlings. Alice, under coercion by her mother (as portrayed by Jacki Weaver), enters almost immediately into an exclusive sexual relationship for money. The arrangement leads to the acquisition of plans used to execute the theft planned by the widows. Alice recruits a fourth of the widow heist in Belle, as played by Cynthia Erivo. Amanda as a new mother, and in a extra-marital relationship with Harry Rawlings, chose not to participate in the heist.
(Michelle Rodriguez as Linda, left, and Elizabeth Debicki as Alice in the film Widows).
The home that Veronica and three ladies were do to rob was the home of current alderman of the eight ward of Chicago, Tom Mulligan (as played by Robert Duvall). Mulligan is a corrupt, bigoted, gruff old politician beset with the political sense of a criminal politician that expects and gives loyalty. Mulligan’s son, Jack, is running for alderman against crime boss Jamal Manning, and is complicit in the graft of his father. Jack Mulligan and Tom Mulligan have differing views for how to run Jack’s campaign for alderman, yet aims to keep the family (and his son) relevant to Chicago politics.
(From left to right, Carrie Coon as Amanda, Cynthia Erivo as Belle and Robert Duvall as Tom Mulligan in the film Widows).
Jack Mulligan reveals himself as the crook you hope he isn’t in the face of contentious conversations between he and his father. Campaign aid Siobhan (as played by Molly Kunz) serves on Jack’s inner circle, in fact aiming to talk truth about the nature of his leadership when Jack experiences self-doubt. The truth of Jack’s nature evolves over the course of the film, perhaps making the telling of his character one of the more relevant and rewarding of the entire film. A similar depth of narrative arc for Veronica and Alice are explored through the course of the film.
(From left to right, Viola Davis as Veronica, Colin Farrell as Jack Mulligan and Molly Kunz as Siobhan in the film Widows).
There is surprising depth of action and character through the course of this film. The audience reception to this film had to do with the side stories that gave the viewing some intelligence, in my opinion. My sense is the film offers more than it has too, with some clues and twists that ultimately pan out well if not exceptionally. I further enjoyed the means through which the traditional script for this type of film was flipped to allow for women, including minority women, to take leading roles. My grade for Widows is 3.75-stars on a scale of one-to-five.
Matt – Wednesday, September 04, 2019