Last night, the 54th Annual Chicago International Film Festival treated attendees to a studded evening with the production team and cast members from Steve McQueen’s upcoming Widows in attendance for red carpet festivities, a packed house screening and a post-film discussion. Widows, one of the year’s best movies, is a high stakes heist picture on Chicago’s meanest streets, but what’s so good about it is that it’s almost an anti-heist heist movie. By that I mean that its characters—lead by a herculean Viola Davis as a Chicago teachers union administrator who falls into dangerous territory after her thief of a husband (Liam Neeson) is killed in a botched job—are vividly drawn and given rich social and economic context as drivers of their “no way out” decisions.
Davis leads a team of desperate women, so well played by Michelle Rodriguez, an eye-opening Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby) and Broadway star Cynthia Erivo—to pull off an unlikely $2 million heist that all but necessitates their survival. Add to this cocktail a thorny vision of Chicago as a place of high-rolling, corrupt politicians, dirty aldermen and scary, underbelly thugs, all written with glorious cynicism by Gillian Flynn, and you get a movie of many pleasures, noble and seedy. Robert Duvall, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya and the great Kevin J. O’Connor are all given meaty turns, and the Chicago locations are spot-on authentic. It’s telling that McQueen saves the heist for the last stretches of the film’s 130 minute running time; he’s more fascinated building the worlds, and the women. Terrific stuff.
Tonight: The festival hosts the North American premiere of the new documentary Friedkin Uncut, chronicling the life and work of the maverick filmmaker, with Friedkin himself in attendance for a career tribute. And that, friends, is a big deal. Tickets here.