Widows, by Steve McQueen

I just finished watching the new film by Steve McQueen, Widows, and I liked it a lot! It’s R rated, so much profanity and a bit of gratuitous nudity/sex, but surprisingly un-gruesome in its action sequences—I’ve seen way worse in some recent PG-13 films. If you plan to see it, you’ll probably want to skip my reflections, which are mildly spoiler-ish.

  • I love heist movies, and this was one, but the structure was very different than others in the genre, which made it fresh for me.
  • I like the new trend of genre movies (and TV shows) centering on female characters, and I cut them a lot of slack because they are trying to do something new and difficult—simply substituting women for men in the old formulas won’t work. So part of what I enjoy is watching them find their way. For example, I enjoyed Ocean’s 8 far more than I would have enjoyed a male-centered version of that story (kind of skimpy, I thought), and some of the turns that would have been misses for me in a male-centered version intrigued me instead—was that the better choice for a group of women? Does that make more sense from the female viewer’s perspective? But, good news, Widows does things differently because of the women but still has a solid and satisfying structure—and even better, at least one of the plot points depends critically on them being women.
  • I loved how this heist film minimized the actual heist—not that it wasn’t the most exciting sequence in the movie—but it was way into the movie, shorter than I expected, and not at all gimmicky. Which left lots and lots of time for Steve McQueen to explore the very rich setting he created. Another movie would have dropped the scene meeting with the preacher at his church since it doesn’t really move the plot forward—but I thought it did some pretty heavy lifting in making the Chicago-politics angle of the story feel real.
  • This is the first Steve McQueen film I’ve seen, and I very much like his directing. Several of the scenes are shot in ways I’ve never seen and which never would have occurred to me, but for me they only added to the experience rather than bringing attention to themselves.
  • Widows is based on a 1980s BBC series, and was remade once about 15 years ago. I don’t know how much of the plot from either was carried over—the setting was definitely changed—but at several points key points I found myself thinking, wow, Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) definitely co-wrote this script! Several twists, very well done.
  • Samuel L. Jackson dissed Jordan Peele for casting Daniel Kaluuya (a British actor) as the African-American protagonist of Get Out, saying the part should have gone to an American actor. Wonder what he thinks of Kaluuya’s performance in this one? (I thought he was great in both, as well as his Black Mirror episode.)

One thought on “Widows, by Steve McQueen

  1. I don’t even want to admit how many times I saw Ocean’s 8 (because Richard Armitage), but I would agree that Widows is a MUCH better film. I was a bit surprised that it didn’t get more love from the awards people this time around. I saw it more as a Chicago movie than a heist movie per se, and I thought it was excellent in that regard, anyway. I don’t really make a point of seeing heist films.

    Kaluuya — I admit that the trend of casting British actors in American roles bugs me (initially, I was annoyed that David Oyelowo was cast in Selma), but usually only until I see them; so many of them have excellent classical training that they just elevate everything that goes on around them. Kaluuya is an exception to this pattern, though. I saw Get Out under protest (I really hate horror films), but I thought Kaluuya was great in Black Panther. And he was a fantastic villain in Widows.

    Perhaps of interest: https://birthmoviesdeath.com/2019/02/11/widows-the-separate-criminality-of-men-and-women

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