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This is a terrific movie that reminds one what we lost when Debra
Winger slowed down her movie-making. She gives an honest, heartfelt
performance as an investigator chasing a woman who marries rich and
whose husbands wind up dead every time. The widow then remakes her
appearance, gets a new identity, and dupes another man. Only Winger is
convinced that this trail of murders is the work of one woman.
Eventually she catches up with this black widow (Theresa Russell) and the two hang out together in Hawaii. The Russell character likes the danger - she knows Winger is after her, and after trying to kill her during a scuba dive, saves her at the last minute.
My favorite scene with Winger is the one in which she almost tells Nicol Williamson the truth about his bride. She stands and stares at him - she knows he's going to die, she knows he won't believe her - you can see every thought in her head until, regretfully, she leaves.
Theresa Russell has the right detachment for this role. One suspects the character is a real man-hater and is, in fact, attracted to Winger. Winger is admiring of Russell's constant flirtation with danger. This is a complex relationship that the two play out. The finale is not up to the standard of the rest of the film, but I still highly recommend it.
Winger and Russell are sensational here, characteristically different yet essentially the same in nature. The sinister plot trappings and black widow symbolism keep the film lively but only serve to heighten the intriguing subtext of two women obsessed with success and competition. Winger is exceptional as always, and while Russell is notably uneven as usual, they both succeed admirably. All the supporting parts are brilliantly played. This is one of the finest and most enjoyable femme fatale films around. A widescreen version is thankfully now available on DVD from Fox.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Alex is a workaholic fed who becomes convinced a female serial killer
is seducing, marrying and poisoning rich men. After failing to prevent
the death of a museum curator in Seattle, she follows the femme-fatale
to Hawaii and manages to befriend her. But when she starts to fall in
love with the killer's next victim, a complex web of intrigue ensues
The script for this movie is a lot of fun but not very original - how then do the filmmakers hold our interest ? By simply making both the (usually male) cop and psycho interesting, intelligent women, and populating the supporting cast with offbeat, funny characters. The subtext is fascinating; is it a feminist piece with a plucky heroine emancipating herself, a sultry lesbian potboiler, or your standard obsessive cop/crook mirrored-existence caper ? The film wisely never takes itself too seriously (there's a great moment when Winger fobs O'Quinn off with a pat psychiatric diagnosis of Russell and then cracks up into hysterics) and it's so beautifully made that I can easily forgive it the odd cliché. It has a great old-fashioned style reminiscent of the big women's pictures of the thirties and forties, with elegance to spare; sumptuous costumes by Patricia Norris and exquisitely crystal-clear primary colour photography by Conrad Hall, with light bouncing off every surface possible and gorgeous locations (New York, Washington DC, Seattle and Hawaii). Best of all though are the cast - Winger is just sensational as the driven Alex, in equal parts meek and brash, and Russell as Catharine / Marielle / Margaret / Renee is the definitive thinking-man's homicidal crumpet - stunningly beautiful, devious, just a little bit nutty, alternately bewildered and cool as ice. Why can't we have more action/thriller movies with two lead actresses like this ? The supporting players are also superb; Williamson as a nervous anthropologist, O'Quinn as the concerned mother of a boss, a hilarious Hong as a seedy private-eye ("No knock !? Come into a person's office, no knock !!"), Hopper as a good-ol'-boy toy tycoon, Rossi as a doubting Thomas local cop, Woronov as scuba-diving instructor and playwright Mamet as a poker-player. There are lots of terrific moments in this movie (my favourite is the wedding gift scene) and thanks to Rafelson's polished, cool direction, it has a classy, seamless, elegant atmosphere.
Debra Winger is great as always as the FBI backroom researcher allowed out
for a change to pursue her theory that the widows of several millionaires
who have all died of the same rare disease are in fact the same
She finds herself fascinated as well as repelled by Theresa Russell's glamour, lifestyle and ability to use men for her own ends. Russell in her turn sees her as a worthy opponent (unlike all those men she takes in so easily).
In fact all the men are just part of the background to the play between Winger and Russell.
Its a terrific film all round and I may be alone in this, but I think the ending works.
I first saw this movie on cable, (HBO) and liked it instantly. The plot and characters were well written I thought and fine acting jobs by all. I was in high school when it came out and really liked the scuba scenes so I bought the movie on video. Since then I have watched it many times and have become a bigger fan. The biggest thing is how well I could identify with the characters. It draws you into watching just to see what's going to happen. I think if you like "Chinatown", you'll like this movie too. I think the ending works too, could be better but works well here. Best performance of Debra Winger except "An Officer and a Gentleman" And truly Thersa Russell's best performance I've ever seen her in. A good movie to watch when you're in the mood to stay home and watch a good well rounded, interesting movie. I still never tire of seeing it again.
Hilariously contrived and utterly compelling, Black Widow is always worth a
re-viewing when the video shelves are dry. It's beautifully filmed,
competently acted, and contains some of the most rousingly misguided plot
twists known to this cinephile.
No spoilers here, but the ending is a knee-slapper, as is the otherwise quite capable Theresa Russell's foray into a southern belle accent. It's all very slick, but in a good way, with the considerable lily gilded by attempts at intellectualizing a movie which could be refilmed with startlingly few changes for a Cinemax Late Night soft-core extravaganza. Kudos to Russell, of course, Winger, James Hong and Mary Woronov just for being Mary Woronov for at least one scene; it's just a shame that a movie which makes a stab at well-rounded female characters (at the very least by making the male characters so weak [truth is, I can scarcely remember the names of any of the male characters] that one cannot help but invest all subjectivity with the female characters) operates under the notion that the Debra Winger character discovers her womanhood vicariously through the exploits of the sensuous, if surprisingly (in context) asexual, man-killer Russell, which is not exactly the most progressive notion. Essential viewing nonetheless.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is one of my all time favorites and that's not said lightly, there
are not a lot of movies I can see over and over. This is one. From
beginning to end, Black Widow, is an unforgettable psychological
Deborah Winger and Teresa Russell star in this. Winger plays an FBI agent obsessed with with Russell's character who she suspects, marries and then murders her husbands. Winger must prove it....
This is an excellent excellent movie, well acted, beautiful scenery, intriguing story, but MOST FASCINATING was the relationship between winger and Russell's characters. To me, even if all the other positives had been lacking in this film, that one thing would be enough to make the movie a must see. Russell and Winger are fantastic in these roles to the point that I could not imagine either role being played by anyone else and both women illustrate beautifully the cat and mouse game these women play with each other.
The ending(although widely criticized here and somewhat unrealistic)) appealed to me tremendously. Obviously, it wasn't long enough and kind of baffling in certain ways, I'll admit but So what? I think this movie does the psychological thriller better then many more well known pictures and certainly is among the best with imagery, unforgettable characters, and the building of tension. This is the type of movie to just get lost in. It's very much under rated.
This is a must see for anyone who loves psychological thrillers and the fact that so much of the movie takes place against an island paradise only succeeds even more in setting the mood of the picture. (you will want to go on vacation when the movie's over). To sum up: the intriguing plot, the lazy, unhurried but extremely tension building way the movie builds, the fascinating battle of wits between Winger and Russell and the beautiful scenery are a wonderful combination and make Black Widow an easy 10 of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
*possible spoilers so proceed with care* There are plenty of plot
summaries here, so let's concentrate on a few specifics.
-- Colors. Pay attention to who is wearing red and who is wearing blue or green. The green painted window behind Winger's boss's desk, the green painted windows of the PI in Hawaii. I'm sure there's more going on with this, but I'll have to see it again to pick it up.
-- Just for fun, watch this movie pretending Winger's character is male. The whole movie hangs together just fine with very few exceptions. Her name is even androgynous.
-- For the people who were unhappy with the ending, I'd like to suggest this: They went ahead with the faked death in order to give Winger a chance to get a confession to the other murders, to satisfy her curiosity. This movie was made back in the days when something like this wasn't beyond the realm of possibility, let's say less improbable than it is today. It may have been something that suffered in the editing. All it would take is a very quick scene with that Hawaiian cop talking to Winger:
Cop: "You were right, Alex, we found the poison in the brandy. We could arrest her now, but we're not going to. We're going to play out this little charade idea of yours, mainly to give her time to break the will, which will further incriminate her as part of her past pattern. I know you're afraid she'll pretend this murder was a once-off thing, that she was wild with jealousy about Paul sleeping with you, and so we need time to fly Aunt Sarah out from the east coast to confirm her identity for that other murder. I know it's important to you that we convict her for those other men too, especially the one you met in Seattle whose death you feel responsible for."
That would have solved the whole problem.
-- There are a whole slew of really entertaining supporting roles in this movie, which to me is a mark of a well-made film. Check out that hostile cop in Seattle who is having a very bad hair day. The Hawaiian private investigator I remember so well from Blade Runner. That babe in the tanning bed is Diane Lane.
This is one of those movies that's often shown on TV badly edited to make it fit between the commercials in the proper time slot -- which cuts out a lot of the "smaller" scenes. So that's where you saw this movie, you missed a lot. Rent the uncut version. A much richer, better developed story.
Debra Winger and Theresa Russell both give very good performances in this
Theresa Russell plays a woman who seduces older, RICH men, marries them, and then kills them by making the deaths look like a natural cause. Debra Winger plays the woman on her tail who is determined to nab her.
Both of the leading ladies in this film are enticing and the film keeps you wanting more to the very end. Excellently portrays why the spider called the Black Widow has it's name.
Sleek and stylish thriller has federal investigator Debra Winger (in a feisty, sensual, fully thought-out performance) believing one enigmatic woman is responsible for the sudden deaths of three millionaires--the wife of each man, in different guises. Icy, cat-like Theresa Russell isn't as gripping as her co-star, though her tightly-controlled characterization is right for this role. Film rushes its last act, with a finale that feels truncated, but otherwise it is an engrossing, superlative chess match between two brainy, attractive women. Great direction (minus the finale) by Bob Rafelson, beautiful cinematography by the esteemed Conrad Hall, gorgeous locations; also, very fine supporting performances by Terry O'Quinn, Sami Frey, Lois Smith, Diane Ladd, Leo Rossi, and terrific cameos from Dennis Hopper and Nicol Williamson as two of Russell's unfortunate husbands. ***1/2 from ****
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