Widows

November 30, 2018 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Liam Neeson
Directed by: Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”)
Written by: Steve McQueen (“Shame”) and Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl”)

Academy Award-winner Steve McQueen is a brilliant director. Although he has only made three features in the last decade — prior to his new thriller “Widows” — each of those films was clearly different and truly memorable, especially his controversial 2011 drama “Shame,” which starred Michael Fassbender as a New York City sex addict, and his brutal, 2013 Oscar-winning drama “12 Years a Slave.”

Sadly, his early cinematic achievements make “Widows” all the more disappointing. Knowing what he is capable of doing behind the camera, it’s unfortunate to see how incredibly ordinary of a heist movie it turned out to be. Even with a top-notch cast, its sprawling narrative ambition, flimsy characterizations and vague central plot push “Widows” to the brink of total collapse.

Set in Chicago, “Widows” kicks off with serious potential. McQueen and co-writer Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl”) introduce audiences to a foursome of criminals who are quickly dispatched during a heist gone wrong. Left to mourn them are their wives — Veronica (Viola Davis), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez), Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) and less-important Amanda (a wasted Carrie Coon). When Veronica learns that her husband Harry (Liam Neeson) owes $2 million to some shady associates, she takes a set of blueprints left behind by her dead husband and decides to organize a robbery with the help of Linda and Alice, so they can pay off the debt.

Bursting over with more subplots than McQueen and Flynn know what to do with, “Widows” also follows a powerful and corrupt political family, led by father-son tandem Tom and Jack Mulligan (Robert Duvall and Colin Farrell), who get caught up in dirty deeds with one of Veronica’s debt collectors. Their story interlinks to one of the overall themes of the film, which attempts to deliver a reflective message about race, class and gentrification, but does so without much enthusiasm or emotion.

Regrettably, “Widows” forgets that it is – first and foremost – supposed to be a believable heist flick. There is so much happening away from their actual strategy, Flynn neglects piecing together a logical way to get Veronica and her crew to accomplish the feat without mucking it up. Sure, there’s a little preparation involved as we watch the women scout the location and talk through the importance of avoiding slip-ups, but once it’s time to execute the plan, moviegoers will be hard-pressed to explain how these characters are even remotely close to being ready for such a dangerous mission.

Add to this a handful of obvious plot holes and secondary storylines about a tense election, a rich developer procuring sexual services from Alice, a dead son, a fifth single mother trying to make ends meet, a hairstylist with a loan problem and an anticlimactic twist, and “Widows” spreads itself to waifish proportions.

Gone Girl

October 3, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Tyler Perry
Directed by: David Fincher (“The Social Network,” “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”)
Written by: Gillian Flynn (debut)

When a beautiful young woman disappears mysteriously in this country, leaving behind a too-calm husband who, in the 30 seconds of video the 24-hour cable news networks replay hour after hour, doesn’t appear to be concerned enough, the court of public opinion—and the shrieking harpies on said cable news networks—has the husband convicted of murder before the first commercial break.

“Gone Girl,” the latest film from director David Fincher, based on the smash-hit novel by Gillian Flynn (who also wrote the screenplay), feels ripped from the pages of Us Weekly and the programming of HLN. Laid-back, jock-ish Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) returns home from his bar to find his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) is missing, the house amiss with the signs of a struggle. A diligent detective (Kim Dickens) and her skeptical partner (Patrick Fugit) begin investigating, noticing the pieces of Nick’s story don’t add up, with expensive credit card splurges in his name and the damning testimony of a neighbor who claims Amy told her of Nick’s physical and verbal abuse.

Nick also comes across aloof and cold as the national media spotlight intensifies on him, committing huge PR gaffes like smiling at a press conference about his missing wife and posing for a selfie with an over-eager volunteer, the blood in the water attracting a Nancy Grace-like shark (Missi Pyle) who practically calls for Nick’s execution every night on national TV. But is Nick innocent or guilty? Was Amy the abused wife her diary describes, or the anti-social trust fund shut-in bitter about moving from New York City to Missouri? Where exactly does the truth lie?

While both Affleck and Fincher have referred to “Gone Girl” as a satire in interviews leading up to the film’s release, this description misses the mark. Sure, the depiction of the media in the movie is ridiculous, but nothing comes close to biting satire or even the hoisting-with-their-own-petard model that both “The Daily Show” and “Last Week Tonight” traffic in. Sure, it’s stupid, but all Fincher and Flynn really did was change the names of the anchors. Toothless satire aside, “Gone Girl” is a fantastic face-value thriller, with enough twists and turns to remain completely unpredictable. Affleck and Pike are great in roles that call for both of them to be honest with each other while being dishonest to the world, and Tyler Perry—of all people–turns in a funny, assured performance as a high-profile celebrity lawyer with more nuance than 10 Madeas smashed together.

Maybe Fincher will be watching the reaction audiences at large have to the film, silently judging us all as philistines who fail to notice the scathing criticism he thinks he’s delivering to the already dead horse of the mainstream media’s credibility. Good thing the movie is extremely enjoyable anyway.