Widows

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Widows

It can easily be said that Widows is first rate on many levels. Director Steve McQueen and actor Viola Davis create a strong core for the movie as they and their cohorts break new ground for women in many ways. The movie has become a hot topic in long, favorable press articles that credit it with exploding the usual Hollywood guidelines regarding race, gender, sex, and murder. All true with one major reservation: is this an acceptable moment to have women celebrate their new freedom with guns and killing?

The movie opens with a prolonged love scene between Harry (Liam Neeson) and Veronica (Viola Davis) that establishes their passion. Shortly after that, Harry is killed during one of his criminal projects leaving his wife Veronica vulnerable to other crooks owed money by her newly dead husband. When she learns that Harry had hidden $5,000,000 in a now unknown place, she assembles several needy widows of fellow criminals to help find that bundle for splitting among themselves. All this will unfold in Chicago, the big city with its own deeply dark side. And so we have men, women, and a backdrop all involved in theft and killing.

Add to that one more first: the unpleasant fact that the moviemakers decided that in addition to breaking new ground for women they would show all crimes and murders in prolonged and full view of the carnage as it unfolds. We are treated to lingering shots of faces and bodies carved up and awash in blood.

The genuine misfire here is the choice of proving the equality of women to men in the one grim way that has usually been the prerogative of men: violence. Women have chosen alternative paths in the past and those ways are now gaining public acceptance. Let’s hope writers will begin to focus on some of the extraordinary ways they are now making themselves felt by solving problems in ways other than traditional male violence.

All that aside, performances by Michele Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki and Cynthia Ervio are fine and those by Viola Davis and Liam Neeson are so strong that they literally become the impact of the movie. I am not asking for old-fashioned feel good movies, but let’s hope someone will film the amazing breakout stories of the past couple of years – the MeToo movement in response to the school shootings, the rise of teenagers in fighting the violence their elders continue to ignore.

The glorification of violence as women’s path to equal strength with men is unpleasant and childish. Now that they are no longer housebound as they have been for centuries, let’s write and film stories that celebrate their new freedom to explore their skills. The relationship between Viola Davis and Liam Neeson is a good start in destroying old rules, but imagine the great story that could have followed if each of the featured women had bold ideas in their heads instead of guns in their hands.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Widows
Word Count : 500
Running Time : 2:09
Rating : R
Date : November 25, 2018

 

Green Book

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Green Book

Green Book may well be the finest movie of this year. It is beautifully made by everyone connected with it and audiences love the rare blend of tragedy and comedy, each delivered in sophisticated ways.

The explosive opening scene in New York’s Copacabana establishes Tony Lip (Viggo Mortenson) as a hot-tempered man who refuses to be insulted. After a brutal fight, he goes home to his wife and two children in the Bronx where he is a calm, loving husband and father. This is a good man whose temper ignites only in the face of injustice.

Tony gets a job as driver for Afro-American classical pianist Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), who is about to embark on a two-month concert tour from New York through the Midwest and the South to a final concert in Atlanta. When he goes for the job interview, Tony finds the renowned Dr. Shirley in an elegant outfit, seated on a throne, and living in absolute luxury above Carnegie Hall. The two team up for the trip – Tony and Doc.

The renowned pianist is greeted with standing ovations wherever he plays but when he turns southward, those ovations are accompanied by clear instructions as to where he can eat and sleep. This is a true story that unfolded in 1962 and it’s a shock.

Tony drives Doc to all his concerts and becomes more involved as they face racial blocks that grow more ugly as they move southward where signs on inns and hotels read “No Colored.” In the ones labelled “Colored,” the beds, rooms, and bathrooms are filthy.

From that point forward, we watch the subtle deepening of the relationship between the two men as Tony realizes his boss is exploring the depth of racial injustice on his concert tour. Tony himself is the white man outraged by the injustice of what he now realizes he had never noticed before. The bond between the two grows deeper as they face the challenges of the deep South.

As all this unfolds, we begin to understand the subtle gift given us by director, writers, and actors who are re-creating a piece of history in pure art form. There are no slipups anywhere as everyone working on the film seems to understand the blend of two strong men facing the tragedy of racism. Tony and Doc begin to help each other in new ways that are deeply moving for the audience. The cultural changes wrap the two in trust without changing their strong beliefs about themselves.

Special credit goes to director Peter Farrelly and actor Linda Cardellini who plays Tony Lip’s wife. Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali are subtle and superb as Tony and Doc. They build an unusual friendship rooted in respect and trust though each retains his essential self even when challenged by the other. If you miss this one you will miss a movie where all its creators have worked together to make a genuine work of art.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Green Book
Word Count : 500
Running Time : 2:10
Rating : R
Date : November 16, 2018