'I'm Your Woman': The marvelous Ms. Brosnahan in a '70s throwback
THE MOVIE "I'm Your Woman"
WHEN | WHERE Begins streaming Friday on Amazon Prime
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Rachel Brosnahan stars in this '70s-set neo-noir about a woman named Jean, who is forced to go into hiding with her new baby after her criminal husband Eddie (Bill Heck) angers some dangerous people and disappears.
The movie, streaming on Amazon Prime, is directed by Julia Hart ("Stargirl") and co-stars Arinzé Kene, Marsha Stephanie Blake and the great Frankie Faison.
MY SAY "I'm Your Woman" is not just set during the 1970s, it feels like it could've been made then, at the height of the auteur-driven New Hollywood era in which the best genre movies prized character development as much as plot.
It unfolds as a quiet slow burn, with Hart building tension by focusing on what's not seen or said, and the impact of action heard as thumps downstairs, or implied by a suspiciously wide-open door.
Brosnahan is an ideal actor for this; she's so good in "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" playing a very different role with broader touches that it's easy to lose sight that she's a master at underplaying things.
The filmmaker relies heavily on the star's ability to convey a multitude of sometimes contradictory emotions through silent reactions and deliberate movements. Brosnahan is a pro at the art of suggestion, filling in a lot of the biographical gaps that are not addressed by the screenplay, which Hart co-wrote with Jordan Horowitz.
But there's a thin line between minimalism and simply not offering enough of dramatic interest to sustain a two-hour movie. "I'm Your Woman" consists of so many scenes in which Jean and the baby sit quietly and tensely in one hideout or another, that the audiences becomes as desperate for an escape as the character herself.
That's certainly purposeful and in some sense really the essence of the movie, in which Jean is abandoned, fending for herself and her long sought baby Eddie brought home under suspicious circumstances. For the first time, she's forced to ask some difficult questions about her husband.
This should be claustrophobic, and it should be perplexing; if Jean is not privy to the reasons she's suddenly faced with such tremendous upheaval, we shouldn't be either. It just doesn't make for the most compelling experience, especially since Jean is not surrounded by characters with much in the way of a personality to enliven things. '
The picture is too serious minded to offer any sort of pulpy appeal. But the filmmaker could have achieved the same cogent dramatic case for focusing on an underdeveloped and often stereotypical character in movies of this genre, the abandoned and neglected wife, while still having a bit of fun in developing the story.
Hart deserves kudos for her effort to flip the most classic and basic of '70s thriller narratives by shifting attention entirely away from the thief and onto the woman suffering the fallout from his actions.
She authentically replicates the aesthetic familiar to the period, capturing Brosnahan in pockets of golden light engulfed in dark and foreboding rooms, and even though you're watching a digital version of the picture on a streaming service, the approach is exacting enough down to the tiniest technical details that it might as well be projected on 35 millimeters in a theater.
It all promises so much more than the movie ultimately delivers, though, and even the most precise technical achievement cannot sustain a narrative that has little to offer beyond its subversive conception.
BOTTOM LINE Brosnahan is wonderful and "I'm Your Woman" offers an exacting replication of '70s-era filmmaking while turning a classic story template on its head. Too bad it's still not compelling or dramatic enough to hold your interest consistently.