Above: Widows movie poster. Credit: Fair use.
Why is the acting in Widows so wooden, and the plot so predictable? My reading of Widows is this .... The film follows the travails of a group of scheming corrupt criminal grifters. The make-up of the group is typical for the criminal classes: most are sociopaths out to charm and exploit anyone they meet. Others are simply desperate losers who have ended up rather unfortunately in the milieu of the criminal sociopaths. The air in such a milieu is noxious, as Genet noted, but the person with a personality disorder is generally unperturbed--ordinary reciprocal loving mutually-supportive relationships, and friendships, are arbitrary rather alien concepts to them. For the fraudulent narcissist the only game is fucking over anyone in sight while pretending very convincingly to be a great friend or great lover. As McQueen correctly shows, in a criminal fraternity human interpersonal social relations are built solely on hostility and an urge to exploit. With this being the case, the narratives around any such milieu are inherently limited. The master narrative of any such social group is driven by cheating, deceiving and lying. This can get boring (in the real world) and this is why many such types end up allied to a bunch of grifters who are more or less ostracised from the run of ordinary people (the ordinary person does tend to insist on at least some empathy and trust in their relationships). What McQueen shows us is that the quality-of-life of the grifter is fundamentally impoverished: they cannot relate to any such ideas as empathy, caring, trust (the desperate loser does relate, it could be said, but only with a horrifying morbid helplessness). The psychopaths have "hearts of stone" and this is often only revealed when a situation arises which calls for their authentic emotional response. The sociopath does not have such a possibility, and so they carry on through their major life events rather deceitfully, something like a bad actor. And this explains--and justifies--the horrendous woodenness of much of the acting in Widows. Those with narcissistic personality disorder (a disorder affecting many in the criminal "underworld") don't have real emotions--or, put another way, their authentic reaction to any social situation is insincerity and trickery.
(14 November 2018)