The widow Grace Jackson is being persecuted by a small Texas town local government—her property has been valued too high, thus causing her taxes to skyrocket. To make matters worse, the incumbent mayor will have nothing to do with it. Will the injustice in America ever end? Thus, two aspiring filmmakers take it upon themselves to create a western musical about Grace’s plight, which is the most natural thing you would do in this situation. But the mayor’s nephew, a corrupt media figure, is trying to undermine them at every turn. Will their film be able to make the case to free Grace from her persecution, or will the liberal media win out?
Production Quality (1.5 points)
For starters, at least the HeuMoore team put some thought into how their movie looked, whatever you may think about it. Video quality is fine and camera work is professional. Sets and locations are decent enough, but some of the props are slightly cheesy. Audio quality is fine, but the original soundtrack, which includes characters literally singing, is atrocious. Not only is the singing bad, the lyrics are absurd. One of the songs is actually five minutes long and is extremely painful. Elsewhere, the editing isn’t really that impressive as scenes cut off awkwardly and transitions are hard to follow. In the end, though this production looks good on the outside, the beauty is only skin deep.
Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)
It is very difficult to take this plot seriously because of its musical elements and because of its basically patriarchal fundamentalist Christian worldview. While the issue discussed therein has some basis in reality, its presentation is very poor and its messaging is too in-your-face. The dialogue that isn’t sung comes off as manufactured, thus creating very cardboard characters. The ‘villains’ are extremely cheesy strawmen. There is too much fake outrage that attempts to fuel this half-baked nearly-propaganda piece. Whatever point is trying to be driven home here is too easily lost and generally contributes to a further negative view of Christian entertainment.
Acting Quality (1 point)
Consisting of a mostly amateur cast, there are some talented performances here, but a lot of the emotions are seemingly ingenuine and overly practiced. Line delivery is very measured and stilted. Costuming and makeup is not the best. Also, did we mention the singing? Overall, this is neither the worst nor the best performance.
Unfortunately, you can tell without asking what this film group is trying to push. While they are not as extreme as some, they tend to push fundamentalism in its usual unpalatable forms. Women are cast in a silently offensive light and opposing viewpoints are made a mockery of. Even though The Widow’s Might is not even as blatant as some fundamentalist propaganda (see Last Ounce of Courage), it still has its undeniable elements and its fixation on subjective traditionalism. However, it seems like the makers of this film have moved on from this worldview, which is a breath of fresh air.
Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points
Edit: The review was edited to reflect accuracy, as brought to light by the film maker.
Hey there! I’m the writer director of Widow’s MIght and Ace Wonder, and I have to laugh. I pretty much wholeheartedly agree with all your points here! I’m surprised to see a review coming out so late after the original production (I filmed the movie in 2008 and it was released in 2009; I was just 18 years old when I directed this film, and my best friend who co-produced with me was just 19.) but I appreciate your format and consistent review styles for these various films. Ace Wonder was released in 2014 but I wrote and directed the film just one year later in 2010, but it took four years from filming to get distribution for the film.
I agree with your assessment of the musical quality, and definitely consider The Widow’s Might to be an overproportioned high school project, as that’s really what it was. That the film has received such widespread release (over 50k DVDs sold and over 2 million viewers on Television and Streaming) is amazing to me.
While I agree with, as I said, almost everything in your review, including the incredibly saddening patriarchal and fundamentalist worldview that myself and my friends had at the time (wouldn’t you as an 18 year old homeschooler raised in patriarchal fundamentalist circles?), I do want to address the idea that the plot was contrived. Unfortunately, two widows in my home County in Texas had just lost their homes due to their properties being assessed at commercial rates, and them being unable to retain ownership of their family farms. It didn’t just happen in theory, it ACTUALLY happened as two women were forced to abandon their lifetime homes to relocate to strange places in their late seventies and mid eighties. To us, this was beyond tragic. What’s worse, our county wasn’t the only place this had happened in Texas.
Since the film was released, it found it’s way into the hands of several conservative legislators, and the story that some high school kids had made this movie, which later won the (at the time) largest film festival cash prize in America of $100,000, raised the eyebrows of some legislators on an already hot topic, and created more public discussion of the issue. Today, there are state laws protecting elderly people by capping the assessment increase rates on the homes of senior citizens. These laws were passed in the very next legislative session after Widow’s Might was released. I don’t think TWM was the main reason it happened, but even if it helped just a few legislators (I know over a dozen who viewed the film at the request of their constituents, as this was a big deal in the rapidly climbing Texas real estate markets of 2006-2010), then it was worth my summer as an 18 year old film student.
I appreciate what you’re doing with the reviews on this site. I promise you my singing has improved, but I still don’t plan to make any more musicals in the near future, and CERTAINLY not casting myself. 😉
~ John R. Moore.
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Thank you for this honest and candid response John 🙂 I certainly don’t blame you for being raised with that type of mindset; it’s refreshing to see you look back on that now and be able to reject it. Thanks also for this great backstory on the issue; I will edit the review to reflect this reality. Regardless, I really think Ace Wonder showed a lot of potential, and I think you do have a lot of great skills as a film maker. Can’t wait to see what you have planned next!
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