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But How Gay is ‘Widows’?

In “But How Gay Is It?”, we seek to answer the biggest questions you have about a new movie release in theaters now — including, most crucially, the titular question. Does the movie have any queer characters? Are there stories involving same-sex lovers? Which gay icons star in the film? We’re bringing you all that and more.

What is Widows? 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen’s latest film is a bit of a deep cut adaptation. He’s based it on a 12-episode 1983 British drama series by crime writer Lynda La Plante, also called Widows. The plot is a fairly simple one: a group of women are suddenly widowed when their criminal husbands die in the middle of a job. Veronica is the de facto leader of these women, and organizes them when a political candidate (whose money the husbands stole and lost) demands the $2 million back. If they don’t pay it back, their own lives are at risk.

Veronica, desperate and in need of a way to pay it back, follows her late husband Harry’s plan to rob $5 million from a wealthy local Chicagoan. The movie follows her and her fellow widows’ journey to pull off the plan — and find their own strength in the process.

Who’s in it? Oscar-winning icon Viola Davis stars as Veronica, serving cold, steel armor covering a damaged, bleeding heart. She’s excellent in the film, as is Elizabeth Debicki as fellow widow Alice. Michelle Rodriguez rounds out their number as Linda, while Tony, Emmy, and Grammy-winning actress Cynthia Erivo plays Belle, a single woman who joins their efforts as a fourth heat.

Beyond the four are Colin Farrell and Brian Tyree Henry as Jack Mulligan and Jamal Manning, the two candidates for a South Side alderman position in Chicago. Daniel Kaluuya is perfectly menacing as Jatemme Manning, Jamal’s brother and muscle. The rest of the film is filled out with great actors in smaller roles, including Carrie Coon, Robert Duvall, Jacki Weaver, Garrett Dillahunt, Matt Walsh, and Liam Neeson as Veronica’s late husband Harry.

Why should I see it? Because Widows fucking slaps. Widows is a hard rock anthem of a movie that you won’t be able to get out of your head. Widows is a fucking blast, and you won’t have a better time at the cinema this year. Trust me.

But how gay is it? Despite some major gay favorites — Davis, Coon, Weaver — the movie is sadly fairly straight. Don’t let that disappoint you, though; Widows is a blast no matter your sexuality.

Is this more of a popcorn movie or an Oscar movie? I have a question for you. What is an “Oscar movie”? Because if I look at the last three Best Picture winners — Spotlight, Moonlight, and The Shape of Water — I can’t find much of a connective thread between them. (Yes, both Moonlight and The Shape of Water were queer, but I’d dare you to find anything particularly gay or queer about the crisply starched shirt that is Spotlight.) Even if you look at the three frontrunners that those movies eventually beat for the Academy’s top prize — The Revenant, La La Land, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri — those movies also don’t really have much in common.

Point being, the idea of the “Oscar movie” is dead. Subject matter is less important than stellar execution of the subject matter. Widows may be a straight-up thriller, but it’s a masterfully made one. If Steve McQueen’s film doesn’t get recognition, that’s on the people who can’t think beyond what an “Oscar movie” should be.

So, if it is going to be considered for Oscars, which categories will it be most competitive in? McQueen and Gillian Flynn’s script will absolutely find its way into the Best Adapted Screenplay race, and I have a feeling Best Supporting Actress will be kind to Debicki. The two closer calls will be if it can get nominated for Best Picture, which feels within reach, and if Davis can get into a tight Best Actress Race — which feels maybe a bit out of reach because it’s so competitive. But it deserves placement in all four categories, plus Best Cinematography, Best Director for McQueen, and Best Supporting Actor for Daniel Kaluuya.

Widows is in theaters now.


 

Kevin O'KeeffeKevin O'Keeffe

Kevin O'Keeffe is a writer and 'RuPaul's Drag Race' herstorian. He covers film and TV for INTO, and writes the movie review column "But How Gay Is It?" every Friday.

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