Elizabeth Debicki

REVIEW: Widows (2018)

Four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead criminal husbands, take their lives into their own hands as they conspire to steal the money they need to repay the men who are out to hurt them, and to make a better life for themselves.

Directed by Steve McQueen who cowrote the screenplay with Gillian Flynn, the author of Gone Girl and many other twisty stories, Widows is a tense heist thriller that never lacks in character and world building.

Widows grabs your attention straightaway, with the heist that goes wrong and leads to four career criminals dying. From then it’s an exploration of the people who are left behind and their grief and loss of what to do next. Viola Davis’s steely Veronica is the one who brings the widows together. She has plans left to her by her late husband (Liam Neeson) and needs help in order to get the money to stop those who wish to hurt her.

All four leading ladies are magnificent. Michelle Rodriguez’s Linda is struggling to provide for her young children, Elizabeth Debicki’s Alice has no career prospects, and Cynthia Erivo’s Belle is working multiple jobs to keep herself and her family afloat. They are four very different characters but they come together with one goal in mind. That’s not to say they don’t have their disagreements, but together they find a strength and determination that some of them didn’t know they had.

Set in Chicago with a backdrop of criminal activity, by politicians and more traditional criminals alike, Widows manages to be a compelling story about interesting and layered women while also managing to bring in race, politics and class into the story. These elements flesh out the Chicago setting. Colin Farrell plays Jack Mulligan, a career politician and whose family has been elected to office for generations, while Brian Tyree Henry plays Jamal Manning, a man who has criminal connections but is from the neighboured he’s campaigning to represent. These two men each have underhand dealings but they approach illegal activity, politics and violence in very different ways.

While Widows is building towards a heist, it’s the characters themselves and the stages they have to go through to prepare for the heist that’s the main focus of the film. That doesn’t make it, or the final crime, any less satisfying. You learn about these women, the hardships they’ve faced, and the forces that are out to stop them, and you soon realise that nothing is going to stop them from doing what they set out to do. 5/5.

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REVIEW: The Tale (2018)

After her mother (Ellen Burstyn) discovers a story she wrote when she was thirteen, Jennifer (Laura Dern) tries to re-examine her first sexual relationship, the people involved and what truly happened that summer.

The Tale is based on writer and director Jennifer Fox’s own experiences and based on the story she wrote as the teenager. This makes this story all the more compelling and heartbreaking as it’s a sexual abuse survivor, telling her story in her own words as she tries to come to terms with what happened to her.

This is not just a story about abuse, but a story about memory. Jennifer can remember her riding teacher Mrs. G (Elizabeth Debicki) and her coach Bill (Jason Ritter) so vividly but has difficulty picturing herself in those memories and remembering how she felt and what she knew. As she reconnects with people who spent the summer with her at the riding school, Jennifer begins to realise that some of her memories don’t match up with other people’s recollections.

The Tale is told with two narratives running parallel to one another; Jennifer as an adult, suddenly having to confront her past, and Jenny as a child (Isabelle Nélisse) living the experiences Jennifer is now recalling. Both Nélisse and Dern give powerful performances. Nélisse is brilliant as she slowly becomes less naïve about the world but still believing that what she’s experiencing is a relationship and that Mrs. G and Bill really love her. Dern is phenomenal as she perfectly captures the anguish as she revisits her past and now she’s older she can start to put into context what she experienced. The scenes where young and present-day Jennifer are in the same space helps show the haziness of memory as between the two of these points of view they try to find the truth of what happened.

The Tale handles the sensitive subject matter with grace and care. It’s a tough film to watch as it doesn’t shy away from the uncomfortable and sexual content. However, it’s powerful to see an independent and strong-willed woman reassess the trauma she experienced and decide what to do with that information. 5/5.

REVIEW: The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

sM6KRdyCIA’s finest Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) is forced to team up with the KGB’s best Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) to stop a mysterious terrorist organisation who are attempting to build and sell a nuclear weapon.

The plot is relatively simple, infiltrate the bad guys and stop them, but that doesn’t stop there being some twists along the way – it’s also full of spy film cliches but it does them so well I can’t really complain. The simple plot might not work for some people but by having a simple spy plot, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. can revel in its action pieces. Being set in the 1960’s it’s all very glamourous, the costumes and the set design are beautiful (the music is also great) and by being in the 1960’s it allowed to be more tongue in cheek and fun compared to other spy films.

The action scenes are great, the boat chase, the opening sequence with the car chase, the shoot outs all are very slick and stylish and the use of split screens as the action is happening is both a refreshing take on the action and makes it more fun and interesting.

The chemistry between Cavill and Hammer is what really sells these two characters and their antagonistic relationship that slowly becomes something like a grudging respect. Cavil is great as the thief turned spy, full of charm but is also rather cocky while Hammer is full of controlled rage that isn’t always so controlled. The bounce off each other wonderfully and also with Gabby (Alicia Vikander) the asset Solo and Kuryakin use to make contact with the terrorists. Gabby is really a part of the main trio and is just as smart and capable as the two men.

The supporting cast is great too, Victoria (Elizabeth Debicki) is the mastermind of the villainous organisation and is quite happy to use her beauty to get what she wants and to dupe men into thinking they know more than they do. Waverly (Hugh Grant) is kind of smarmy and the sort of guy who knows everything – or at least pretends to.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a lot of fun but the main enjoyment comes from the chemistry between the three leads. For once I’ll say, I really would quite like a sequel. 4/5.