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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Widows is a mature crime/caper thriller in which a group of women (Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Elizabeth Debicki) whose criminal husbands all died on the same job decide to work together to pull off a big heist so they can pay their debts. Violence includes bloody shootings (many of which are fatal), a deadly explosion, evidence of physical abuse against women, brief animal cruelty, and more. You can also expect frequent strong language ("f--k," "s--t," the "N" word, and and more), and some drinking. A sex scene includes naked breasts and a bottom. Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya, and Liam Neeson co-star.
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What's the story?
In WIDOWS, when a Chicago woman named Veronica (Viola Davis) loses her husband, Harry (Liam Neeson), in a heist he masterminded, she finds herself responsible for his debt to local crime lord Jamal (Brian Tyree Henry). Veronica recruits the widows (Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki) of the other men who died on the same job as Harry to pull off another heist that he had planned. Meanwhile, Jamal runs for office against corrupt Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell), and Jamal's brother, Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya), keeps a menacing eye on the women.
Is it any good?
This heist movie is based on a 1980s British TV show, but thanks to director/co-writer Steve McQueen's talent, it has more emotional and sociopolitical resonance than you'd expect from the genre. It doesn't hurt to have a cast this good; in addition to the headliners, Widows also features Robert Duvall, Jackie Weaver, Carrie Coon, and Garret Dillahunt. Dillahunt, especially, continues his string of sympathetic performances, and Tony winner Cynthia Erivo is memorable in a scrappy role. Davis, of course, ably carries the weight as a woman figuring out a life-or-death puzzle on the fly as she mourns her beloved husband ("We have a lot to do, and crying is not on the list"). Debicki shines as the widow with arguably the longest arc, going from kept woman who accepts beatings as part of the deal to becoming an important cog in the movie's ad-hoc criminal machine. The Chicago setting is carefully chosen; the city's troubled reputations of ingrained corruption and street violence are woven into the story's fabric.
However, that fabric has perhaps too many diverse threads for a two-hour-plus tapestry. The political machinations end up feeling like another movie -- it's the kind of subplot that might have played out more powerfully in a miniseries format. The movie's Big Twist feels pretty obvious, and the entire impetus for the story is actually left unaddressed at the end of the film, which is a problem for a heist movie. It's also presented in such short, episodic bursts (probably due to the large number of characters and plot threads) that it can feel choppy. Still, the strong performances, grounded world, and clean, matter-of-fact direction by McQueen easily elevate Widows above most heist movies.
Talk to your kids about ...
The film casts a negative light on its setting, Chicago, with its depiction of violence, corruption, and racism. Does this affect your attitude of the city? Do you think it's accurate?
Would you call this film "feminist"? Why or why not? Are any of the characters role models?
- In theaters: November 16, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: February 5, 2019
- Cast: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki
- Director: Steve McQueen
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 129 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence, language throughout, and some sexual content/nudity
For kids who love thrills and strong female characters
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.