An Emotional Steal (Film Thoughts: Widow)

F2vZraoViola Davis stars in ‘Widows,’ and the great thing about this film is that she anchors it. I think she is one of the best, and it is nice to see a movie built and revolving around her character. And she is great here – three dimensional, and she gets to show multitudes of emotions all at once, always effectively. She is always at the center, even as it is a great ensemble piece.

The film is about a bunch of widows whose husbands were all killed in a botched heist. But of course, there’s more to the story than that. Set in Chicago, director Steve McQueen has made an action-packed thriller that is very moody, and quite emotional. These wives set out to steal, but the actual heist happens in the last eighth of the movie, as if it was an afterthought. It gets built up from the melodrama, which is part grief story, and part story about political underpinnings. Along the way, we get twists and turns that can rival your best Mission Impossible (Gillian Flynne, of ‘Gone Girl,’ wrote the screenplay with McQueen) I thought the balance of these tones are sometimes a little too muddled, but it all pays off in the end. And we get great performances across the board. I loved Elizabeth Debicki’s dumb/vulnerable Alice Gunner and the underused Cynthia Errivo as Belle. In the end, this really isn’t my kind of film (I suspect it won’t end up as one of my favorites from the year) but I can appreciate it from afar.

A Bad Sad Time (Movie Thoughts: Bad Times At The El Royale)

bad_times_at_the_el_royale‘Bad Times at the El Royale’ could have been good, but it lives up to its title. Written and Directed by Drew Goodard, it is a lot of style with some substance with a whole lot more self-indulgence along the way.

It boasts of a strong cast – Jeff Bridges, Jon Hamm – so it did not suffer from lack of execution. When it first starts, you wonder what the eff am I watching,’ and that’s not necessarily such a bad thing. However, when it all came together, and it kind of made sense, you say ‘that was it?’  The payoff just isn’t there to justify what you just went through. The film is painfully slow – does this film really need to be almost two and a half hours? – and I have to admit that there were more than enough moments when I felt utterly bored by it. Cynthia Errivo is the MVP from the cast, her acting (and singing) trying desperately to make sense in the midst of all the confusion. I was excited going into the film, and leaving the theater I just felt sad. And I already have enough sadness in my life.