Film Review: I’m Your Woman
I’m Your Woman
Director: Julia Hart
Scrap Paper Pictures
In Theaters: 12.4
Streaming on Amazon Prime: 12.11
There’s only one downside to falling as utterly in love with a TV series as I have with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and that is that lead actress Rachel Brosnahan is so synonymous in my mind with role of Midge—the witty and daring housewife turned standup comedienne—that I knew that it would be a tough transition to really buy her in other roles. Or at least I thought it would be.
Set during the 1970s, I’m Your Woman introduces us to Jean (Brosnahan), a pampered but lonely housewife who has little to do but wait for her husband Eddie to get home from work each day. But that changes when Eddie (Bill Heck, Locke & Key), a career criminal—though Jean doesn’t really know what it is Eddie does, and she doesn’t ask—comes home one evening with a baby boy, which he presents to her by saying, “He’s our baby now. I worked it all out.”
So Jean tries to get used to very abruptly becoming a mother, with Eddie away most of the time on “business.” But if the baby was a surprise, it’s nothing compared to an associate of Eddie’s showing up in the middle of the night to say that Eddie is in trouble, people are looking for him, Jean and the baby, and it’s time to get the hell out of Dodge. A bodyguard named Cal (Arinzé Kene, How To Build A Woman) is assigned to get Jean and the baby set up some place safe, but with no idea as to where Eddie is, who is after them or why, Jean isn’t safe anywhere, and anyone could be a potential threat.
Director Julia Hart (Fast Color, Stargirl) does an impeccable job of building the suspense, to the point where I don’t think I let out a single breath during the last half hour. It took me back to when I was 11 years old and saw my first R-Rated “grown up” movie—Peter Weir‘s Witness—and the heart pounding intensity that I felt at the time, completely swept up in the tension and fearing for the safety of those characters. I sometimes find myself missing the days when I could feel those kinds of chills and thrills and become so utterly engaged in a film, like I was actually living it, and the fact that I’m Your Woman tapped into that feeling at all speaks volumes about the quality of the acting, the dimensionality of the characters and skill of the direction.
Hart favors shooting low and wide and utilizing long takes over lots of razzle-dazzle money shots and quick-cut sequences, and it’s unquestionably the right approach for this film. The screenplay by Hart and her significant other, Jordan Horowitz (best known as the producer of La La Land who had to break it to everyone on stage that they’d actually lost), is smart and gritty without falling into a lot of ’70s cliches or a need to slavishly emulate other films of the era and instead turns these trops on their ear. The standard for this kind of shit-hits-the-fan story is that the protagonist sends the kid and his girlfriend out of town until things are safe, but we never get to see their story. Hart not only shows us that story but, compellingly pleads the case that they are the ones we should have focused on all along.
Brosnahan sizzles in the lead role, leaving Midge Maisel far behind and proving that the series is no fluke, and her ability to command the screen goes far beyond this signature role. Kene is quite a presence as Cal, and I’m quite sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of him. In fact, he makes such a strong impression that for those of us who want to see a Black James Bond but have to accept that Idris Elba is too old at this point, I submit that the Nigerian-born Kene is a perfect choice to fill the role. Frankie Faision (The Silence of the Lambs), James McMenamin (Orange is The New Black) and Marsha Stephanie Blake (When They See Us) round out the supporting cast, along with Jameson and Justin Charles as baby Harry, and who is really the heart and soul of the picture.
I’m Your Woman is one of the best character-based thrillers to come along in a very long time, and signals the arrival of both an interesting new voice behind the camera and bold and versatile superstar in front of it. –Patrick Gibbs