Widows probably works best as a three-minute trailer (punchy and funny) or a longform miniseries (deep and complicated). It’s a movie, though, which means we’re stuck with a fitfully engaging, 129-minute feature that only occasionally gets out of gear. The film is actually based on a miniseries, broadcast in England in the 1980s. Adapted here by Gone Girl writer Gillian Flynn and director Steve McQueen, Widows tries to be a lot of different things: heist thriller, feminist statement, social-issue diagnosis. That’s a lot to bite off, and 129 minutes isn’t enough time for proper chewing.
You’ve got to admire the confidence of Gone Girl: this truly odd movie coughs up a bizarre story line mixed with comic social commentary, but it never loses its swagger. Being the eagerly awaited adaptation of a best-selling page-turner will encourage that kind of attitude, I guess.
Gillian Flynn’s 2012 novel has a few twists up its bloodied sleeve, but we’ll be discreet here. The story begins with the disappearance of Amy (Rosamund Pike) from her unloved Missouri home, and escalates into a media circus as suspicion is cast on her husband Nick (Ben Affleck). Nick has the help of his sister (Carrie Coon) and a celebrity lawyer (Tyler Perry, excellent), but his status in the public eye is dismal. Meanwhile, we see excerpts from Amy’s diary, which fill in the picture of a marriage gone sour.