The subtext is there, and it will hit you – Liam Neeson and his real-life son Micheal Richardson plays a father and son who has to face grieving for their dead wife/mother. I am sure it was a harrowing and probably cathartic experience for them. And I admit, I carried that with me while watching James D’arcy’s ‘Made In Italy.’ That aspect brings humanity and honesty to the film, even if D’arcy’s screenplay feels artificial and full of tropes. But, I liked the film – a lot. Neeson is fantastic as Robert, who repairs a broken relationship with his son as they try to repair their Italian house before selling. In fact, Neeson is so good that you can see Richardson’s greenness right away, but it hardly matters because you get sucked in the film right away, with help of the beautiful scenery of Montalcino, Italy, where it is shot. As soon as you see the Italian village, you know you (or the characters) will never be able to leave it. It’s a great escape in these Covid times – the scenery and the film – that you will be able to overcome the triteness of the storytelling.
Viola 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.