My test for how much I truly like a film is simply how long does the film resonate with me after viewing. Do I forget it like the popcorn I just ate as soon as I leave the theater or do I continue to think about it and allow my neurons to fire and process what I just witnessed for the last two hours? The latter is the case with director Julia Hart’s gritty and gutsy ’70s-inspired thriller, I’m Your Woman.
When we first meet Jean (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s Rachel Brosnahan) she is a purposely and blissfully unaware suburban housewife. As she calmly removes the price tags from her fluffy and gaudy purple robe during the opening credits, Jean probably has an idea where her “imperfect” life comes from – courtesy of her low-level criminal Eddie (played Locke and Key’s Bill Heck). But she simply doesn’t care. It doesn’t affect her no matter what his dealings are. Jean would rather smoke, stare up at the sky and not care.
Through his underworld dealings, Eddie has built a “perfect” life for Jean, but it’s a life that is filled with holes. Eddie’s cheery demeanor is there to make Jean feel comfortable as she attempts (with little to no success) be the perfect housewife. Like her life, Jean isn’t perfect. That can be seen in her ongoing struggle with burning eggs and toast.
Jean’s complacency doesn’t get to last too long as hers is a story of a woman being first gently nudged from her life sleep to getting jolted out of her bed. It all begins when a smiling Eddie comes home with an infant named Harry (Jameson and Justin Charles, Barrett Shaffer). The way Eddie gives Harry to Jean is given with the same joy he might give her a necklace or a new watch. Just like her other “gifts,” Jean doesn’t ask (or doesn’t want to know) where the baby came from. She simply accepts it.
Her awakening becomes more emphatic and pronounced when Eddie’s shady career causes him to go into hiding and an intense, gun-toting associate Cal (Arinzé Kene) arrives to take Jean and Harry on the run.
Jean’s awakening, which owes so much to Brosnahan’s mostly silent yet oh-so expressive performance, is then propelled from deer-caught-in-the-headlights housewife to survivalist. This period piece, set against an autumn backdrop dominated by blues, beiges and yellows, Jean moves through a series of safehouses while avoiding nosy neighbors (The Leftovers‘ Marceline Hugot) and dangerous thugs.
Like Jean, we don’t know what Eddie did to cause the world to pursue him, but it’s not important. For Director Hart, we are all Jean. We awaken as Jean awakens. As Jean says at a pivotal point on her treacherous journey, “I’ve never been on my own.” But now she is on her own and must survive at all costs for herself and Harry.
While one assumes Jean and Cal will develop some sort of intimate, interracial relationship, Hart has other plans. Their relationship actually leads Jean to meet a family of mentors who will teach her how to survive in this new and dangerous world. Cal’s family, who consists of wife Teri (Marsha Stephanie Blake), son (Da’Mauri Parks) and father (Frankie Faison), is thrust into Jean’s life at a remote cabin. It’s here the sheltered white woman will be taught how to survive by a group of people who have always had make the best of nothing.
It’s this growth that causes our hopes and fears to intertwine with Jean and Harry. We feel Jean’s frustration as she continually asks where is Eddie and doesn’t receive an answer. We also feel her fright as she ducks during a violent shootout in a nightclub or riding in the backseat during an intense car chase that feels reminiscent of The French Connection.
I’m Your Woman, which premiered at the AFI and opens in theaters Dec. 4, a week before its global streaming launch, is up there with such great ’70s Gloria, The Parallax View and even Marathon Man. This isn’t a woman kicks ass kind of film like Charlies Angels, Birds of Prey or Mad Max: Fury Road. Hart’s film is real. Its’ a slow burn and when it does reach its temperature, everything boils over.
Fans of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel will see a far more internalized performance from Brosnahan than what they are used to. This begins with screenplay by Hart and husband Jordan Horowitz. The Milwaukee native’s performance is one of discovery from being given Harry to finally firing a gun and killing a thug.
Blake (When They See Us) gives Teri a sense of weight that contrasts splendidly with Jean’s weightlessness. Like Cal, she is fragile yet commanding. Quiet but fearless. Teri is a metaphor for the strength that Black women have always had to possess and exemplify. The two characters could not be more different, yet share a commonality.
Production Designer Gae Buckley has given us a colorful backdrop that plays an integral part of the story. Yes, the leaves are changing as is Jean. But that change also comes with a sense of dread. Hart and cinematographer Bryce Fortner excel in creating a noir feels that is jolted (like Jean) into tense action with real stakes. If Jean dies, what will happen to Harry? The score by Aska Matsumiya moves between a world of ominous and foreboding to frenetic crescendos.
In the final moments of the film, when Jean and her new family are reunited, we realize how far she’s come. It’s like giving birth to a child, blinking an eye and realizing they are adults. We just wonder where the time went. That’s the same feeling after watching Hart’s brilliant I’m Your Woman. You’ll wonder where the time went watching, but it will continue to stay with you a long time after.
4.5 Ball Point Pens. So says The Geek.
- DISTRIBUTOR: Amazon Studios Production companies: Original Headquarters and Scrap Paper Pictures in association with Big Indie Pictures
- CAST: Rachel Brosnahan, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Arinzé Kene, James McMenamin, Marceline Hugot, Frankie Faison, Bill Heck, Da’Mauri Parks, Jameson Charles, Justin Charles, Barrett Shaffer, Jarrod DiGiorgi, Lynda Marnoni
- DIRECTOR: Julia Hart
- SCREENWRITERS: Julia Hart, Jordan Horowitz
- PRODUCERS: Jordan Horowitz, Rachel Brosnahan
- EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Bart Lipton
- DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: Bryce Fortner
- PRODUCTION DESIGNER: Gae Buckley
- COSTUME DESIGNER: Natalie O’Brien
- EDITORS: Tracey Wadmore-Smith, Shayar Bhansali
- MUSIC: Aska Matsumiya
- CASTING DIRECTORS: Candice Alustiza-Lee, Karlee Fomalont
The Geek is a working screenwriter, director and screenwriting instructor.