Comic Review Written and Drawn by David Yoder
Widows: Unexpected and Welcome Collaborations
Written Review by David Carter
In film having a unique voice behind the camera and another on the page is always an interesting exercise in stylistic melding. I think the most famous contemporary example is David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin’s The Social Network, a film that balances the bleak and myopic and lurid textures of a David Fincher film and the snappy, quick paced, holier-than-thou finger waving of an Aaron Sorkin script. In the end, the film was successful in making these amoral future tech overlords more interesting and entertaining to watch while never letting up that these people are (to an extent) vile, and would sell out their mother if it meant being the first person at the proverbial table. Neither voice is lost and yet everything blends together near perfectly. It made for a film that you can talk about its authorial intent without talking about both voices involved, which becomes rare in the conversations about directors and the other creatives behind the scenes.
David Fincher didn’t shy away from this type of collaboration. 5 years later he would adapt the novel Gone Girl by author Gillian Flynn. Flynn is the one who adapted the novel for the screen. Flynn was (and still is) seen as something of a trojan horse author. The perception of her books being that they’re all these thrilling and tawdry beach reads filled with sex, violence, and mystery, but the past few years of adapting her work for screen has shown that behind all that there’s blunt and vital commentary of what it’s like to be a modern woman in America. Some of it not so subtle (the “cool girl” speech in Gone Girl) and other times poignant and complicated (the entire mothers and daughters conceit of Sharp Objects). She’s quickly become someone you can call on to provide a titillating idea to lure people in, and a hook that will catch them and have them thinking on the car ride home or as they shut off the TV and get ready for bed.
While Gone Girl was a masterpiece in its own right, it left me wondering what Gillian Flynn could do with material that wasn’t her own. Enter Steve McQueen, a late-00’s and early-10’s arthouse darling from the UK with a penchant for making grueling, emotionally taxing dramas. Now, combine those two talents with a BBC series from the mid-80’s. Flynn (along with McQueen, he also has a screenplay credit) took Lynda La Plante’s thrilling yet novel idea of “wives of dead criminals have to rob a bank themselves” and turn it into something a little heavier. The film’s premise isn’t that far removed from the above-mentioned idea but with a few important additions. The film has transplanted the story to Chicago and drops the audience right into the unseen wheeling and dealing of a small stakes election, except it’s not small for the people living in this district. Colin Farrell plays the son of a particularly vile Robert Duvall. They’re a dynasty of city officials (aldermen to be exact) that want to hold control over a predominantly black neighborhood, while Brian Tyree Henry and his brother and enforcer Daniel Kahlua are gangsters turned politicians who want to put the power back into the hands of black folks, even if those hands are very dirty.
Then there’s the titular “Widows” themselves (Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Carrie Coon, and Cynthia Erivo), a group of women all dealing with grief, disappointment and new-found autonomy that their husbands left in their wake. It’s a movie that deftly juggles the interiority of the women whose lives are turned upside down in a moment and how that interconnects to the class and racial politics of an inherently compromised system, things that Flynn and McQueen are so gifted at portraying. But this would be selling short the two most entertaining and tense traits these creatives bring to the table. McQueen’s raw eye for blunt and incredibly tense action and violence (the way he films the heists, chase scenes, and murders will truly rattle you) and Flynn’s innate sense for bringing out the trashier elements in a story like this. Audiences love to be intrigued and they love the drama that comes with sex, money, and betrayal. So, why not give it to them in a way that makes them feel like they have to hide under their covers with a flashlight to enjoy it?
And like The Social Network these two voice pop and simultaneously meld so well together that you start forgetting about the authorship and just sit down and enjoy a piece of entertainment aimed at adults. Something that will make you laugh and clench your seat, but will also make you think about what you just saw after seeing it.