Category: Widows

Toronto Film Review: Viola Davis in ‘Widows’

“In “Widows,” the power of Davis’s performance is that she lets you know, in every scene, that Veronica is living in a world of treachery.”

Steve McQueen’s real-world heist movie gives Viola Davis a powerful role as a crime widow who takes cold-eyed command of her desperation.

Speaking on stage at the Toronto International Film Festival, right before the premiere of “Widows,” his first movie since “12 Years a Slave” (which was five years ago), director Steve McQueen talked about how important it was to set movies in the world of real, recognizable human beings. A lot of us would second that sentiment, yet it’s still not what you expect to hear from someone who’s introducing a heist film. The genre has been around in a major way since the early ’50s, and the template has always been this: When characters get together to plan and execute a robbery, we may see the quiet desperation of their lives, we may taste an ashy undertone of cynical “reality,” but it’s really all about the trip-wire cleverness of the crime itself. Heist movies unfold in a caper-film bubble, and that, one way or another, is their key pleasure.

But “Widows,” as McQueen implied, is another story. It’s a movie in which three women, whose husbands all perished in a robbery gone wrong, band together to steal $5 million, even though none of them has the slightest experience at acting like a criminal. And the web of dire circumstances that lead them to hatch this scheme in no mere set-up — it’s the dramatic heart of the movie. “Widows,” adapted from a British TV crime drama that was first broadcast in 1983, has a script co-written by McQueen and the novelist and screenwriter Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl,” “Sharp Objects”), and it presents an enjoyably dark and sleazy vision of ordinary lives intertwining with the hurly-burly of street thuggery, local machine politics, and half a dozen other forms of daily corruption.

The movie, set in contemporary Chicago, opens with Veronica Rawlins (Viola Davis) and her husband, Harry (Liam Neeson), who happens to be major crook, kissing the hell out of each other in bed. The simple fact of a mixed-race marriage presented this casually is still startling to see in a mainstream movie, to the point that we can’t help but invest this passionate pair with a certain romantic idealism. But that’s snuffed pretty quickly. Their early moments are intercut with a turbulent chase, seen from the vantage of a getaway van with its back doors banging open, that ends with Harry and his crew being fired on by the police, until the van explodes into flames, killing all the men onboard. So much for domestic bliss.

Veronica is suddenly a widow. More than that, she’s a widow whose husband left her owing $2 million. That’s how much he stole from Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry), who’s running for alderman of his ward, but he’s also a strong-arm crook who demands that Veronica liquidate her assets, including the sprawling penthouse she lives in, to pay him back.

Viola Davis’s commanding performance roots this scenario in icy fear and shock. Veronica can’t believe what’s happened to her (overnight, she has lost everything), and her eyes tell you that she knows it’s just going to get worse. She keeps having flashbacks to her life with Harry, including one where they nuzzle to Nina Simone singing “Wild Is the Wind.” It’s hard not to notice that Davis, her hair cut short, her eyes beams of fury, would be an ideal actress to portray Nina Simone. She has that kind of force.

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Viola & Widows at the Toronto Film Festival

Viola has been taking Toronto by storm this past weekend as she publicizes her new film Widows. She attended two press conferences and a premiere with her cast mates.


Gallery Links:
Viola Davis Online > 2018 > September 8 | Widows Press Conference in Toronto
Viola Davis Online > 2018 > September 8 | Toronto Film Festival – Widows Premiere
Viola Davis Online > 2018 > September 9 | Toronto Film Festival – Widows Press Conference

Viola Davis Knows What’s Wrong With Hollywood… and How to Fix It

Viola is featured on the newest issue of Variety magazine. She talks about her new film Widows that is premiering at the Toronto Film Festival, the Hollywood Pay Gap, and other issues that she has faced in Hollywood.

It was a familiar dilemma for Viola Davis. What to do with her hair?

The star of the upcoming film “Widows” needed to know what kind of wig or extensions she should wear to play Veronica Rawlins, the leader of an unlikely band of robbers scrambling to pull off a dangerous heist. Director Steve McQueen’s answer shocked the Emmy-, Tony- and Oscar-winning actress.

“I said, ‘Your own hair is beautiful — just wear it that way,’” recalls McQueen. “Veronica is a wash-and-go kind of girl.”

For Davis, the decision to appear on-screen in close-cropped, curly hair was liberating and represented an important social statement.

“You’re always taught as a person of color to not like your hair,” she says. “The kinkier it is, the so-called nappier it is, the uglier it is.”

McQueen stressed that he was interested in reflecting reality. More women looked like her, he told the actress, than like the artificial and idealized images of female beauty that Hollywood frequently projects.

“We’re into a zeitgeist where people are fighting for their space to be seen,” says Davis. “People have to know that there are different types of women of color. We’re not all Foxy Brown. We’re not all brown or light-skinned beauties with a big Afro. We have the girl next door. We have the older, dark-skinned, natural-haired woman.”

“Widows,” which premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival and debuts in theaters on Nov. 16, represents other important firsts for Davis. It’s a commercial action pic from a major studio (20th Century Fox) that rises or falls on her performance, as well as a chance for the 53-year old actress to solidify her position on the A-list. Julius Tennon, Davis’ husband of 15 years and the co-founder of their production company JuVee, says the impact could be seismic.

“This could change the face of her career up to this point,” he says. “It’s a chance for Viola to be seen as the lead actor in a global movie.”

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New Widows Trailer

A new trailer has been released for Viola’s film Widows! Check it out!

Additional Stills from Widows

Some new stills have been released from Viola’s film Widows …

Gallery Links:
Viola Davis Online > 2018 | Widows > Production Stills

Oscar-winning filmmaker Steve McQueen takes Widows to Chicago for movie revamp

Baz Bamigboye for the Daily Mail visited the Chicago set of Widows. I think this film sounds amazing. Baz gives us a great run down on the making of the film.

The Oscar-winning film-maker Steve McQueen was a 13-year-old London schoolboy when he first watched Lynda La Plante’s ground-breaking television drama Widows, about four women who take over a daring robbery set up by their recently departed husbands.

McQueen, who made 12 Years A Slave, Hunger and Shame, can recall being transfixed by the six-part series starring Ann Mitchell as Dorothy Rawlins, the queen bee who takes charge of her old man’s heist ledger and recruits the other widows.

Three decades later, a fortuitous meeting at a glamorous address set in motion what would become McQueen’s fourth feature film. ‘I met Lynda La Plante at Buckingham Palace, as you do, lining up to meet the Queen at an arts event — Lenny Henry and Angela Lansbury were there — and I asked her what happened to the movie rights to Widows,’ the director told me recently at the Dean Street Townhouse in Soho.

She said the rights were with Disney. New Regency, the studio with which he made 12 Years A Slave, purchased the permissions to make the film.

McQueen had remained fascinated, over the decades, by Mitchell’s Mrs Rawlins and the diversity of the gang she gathered around her. However, he wanted to make a contemporary Widows that encompassed not just women and their empowerment but explored the underbelly of how a big city operated. So he transplanted the story to Chicago, a ‘wonderful, fertile textured city’, but also ‘full of tension’.

And for the final touch, he added a pinch of politics: describing the result as ‘political pop’.

‘I wanted to understand what makes a big city tick, as four women are organising a big heist with the clock ticking against them.’

The handful of people who’ve seen the film tell me it’s a rollicking, breathtaking thriller, with the kind of depth only an artist of McQueen’s stature can bring to the mix.

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Widows at Toronto Film Festival

Deadline has shared that Viola’s film Widows is premiering at the Toronto Film Festival in September!

The Toronto Film Festival has unveiled a rich roster of Gala and Special Presentations screenings for the 2018 edition that runs September 6-16. Among the world premieres are Felix Van Groeningen’s addiction drama Beautiful Boy from Amazon and based on the memoirs of David and Nic Sheff, with Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet starring.

Also in the world premiere mix are Steve McQueen’s female-fronted thriller Widows from Fox; Peter Hedges’ mother-son story and Julia Roberts-starrer Ben Is Back, which LD Entertainment, Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions are releasing domestically December 7; Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight follow-up If Beale Street Could Talk from Annapurna; Dan Fogelman’s romantic drama Life Itself; and Claire Denis’ High Life.

GALAS 2018
Widows
Steve McQueen
United Kingdom/USA
World Premiere

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