THE STORY – In this 1970s set crime drama, a woman is forced to go on the run after her husband betrays his partners, sending her and her baby on a dangerous journey.
THE CAST – Rachel Brosnahan, Arinzé Kene, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Bill Heck, Frankie Faison, Marceline Hugot & James McMenamin
THE TEAM – Julia Hart (Director/Writer) & Jordan Horowitz (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 120 Minutes
By Daniel Howat
Writer-director Julia Hart previously brought us a contemplative, feminist twist on the superhero genre with “Fast Color,” and is back with a similar take on gritty crime dramas in “I’m Your Woman.” We’ve seen countless thrillers about mobsters and hitmen, but precious few put a woman in the lead. Here, Rachel Brosnahan (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”) is out in front as Jean, the wife of a low-level criminal, who reaps the consequences of her husband’s shady dealings. The story is a mystery, a puzzle we must piece together along with Jean. Unfortunately, the film takes far too long to give us any of the pieces, leaving us confused and without much motivation to continue.
Unable to conceive, Jean doesn’t ask a lot of questions when Eddie (Bill Heck) brings home a baby boy. We get the feeling that Jean doesn’t ask Eddie many questions period, instead, she turns a blind eye to his criminal tendencies. Naturally, this blissful ignorance only lasts for so long. Soon, after Eddie goes missing, Jean is shoved into the arms of Cal (Arinzé Kene), though she has little-to-no information as to what’s happened. The audience is right in the thick of it all with Jean, too. We’re confused, only understanding that someone is out to get them.
From beginning to end, Brosnahan carries “I’m Your Woman” on her shoulders. The character of Jean is a far cry from Brosnahan’s Emmy-winning Midge on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” While Midge is a confident trail-blazer, for much of the film, Jean is passive and unsure. “I’ve never been alone,” she tells Cal as she pleads with him not to leave her by herself. Slowly but surely, Jean’s evolution becomes more clear as she takes control of her own fate. Brosnahan’s supporting cast is stellar as well. Kene creates a very interesting character with Cal, a somewhat calm and collected presence, even when he’s a bit thrown for a loop. Marsha Stephanie Blake, playing Cal’s wife Teri, also shines with an effortless performance.
Unfortunately for us, very little is clear about what’s going on as Jean’s journey begins. Though it may have been intended to create mystery, there’s little keeping us locked into the story. We’re given no backstory, no character development, and hardly any context as Jean is dropped into this world of crime. The problem is that we’re even more confused than our already confused protagonist. We don’t know who is out to get them or why. This may have worked if this was a much more fast-paced thriller. Instead, this film is surprisingly languid. So much of the film is spent waiting. Waiting for clarity. Waiting for action. Waiting for a confrontation. Too little is experienced by our main characters, but rather explained to them later on. For at least the first half of the movie, without clear motivations for the characters or urgency propelling them forward, it was difficult to invest in Jean’s story.
Thankfully, one thing is abundantly clear from the start: this movie has style to spare. Bryce Fortner’s gorgeous cinematography pulls us into this world, full of vibrant colors that really evoke the time period. Art direction from Gae S. Buckley and costuming from Natalie O’Brien are all top-notch, bringing believability and subtlety to this world. The film’s solid soundtrack helps as well.
There’s still a lot to love with “I’m Your Woman,” which is worth watching for the excellent performances alone. Hart and co-writer (and husband) Jordan Horowitz set out to tell the story of a woman taking control of her future, and they’ve succeeded. Jean’s journey is satisfying: from a co-dependent, unsure housewife to a woman empowered to make her own decisions. That journey may be bumpy (for both the character and the viewers), but it’s still a story worth telling.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – This ‘70s crime drama has style to spare, with gorgeous cinematography and vibrant colors. Rachel Brosnahan leads a talented ensemble with her empowered performance.
THE BAD – The story is quite vague for the first half of the film which doesn’t help build the tension. Without much clarity or a clear villain, this slow-burn pace takes some patience.