When I think of those crime films of the 1970s, I think of gangsters and mobs. I think pimps and hoes. I think Blaxploitation and women portrayed as less than. 2019s film The Kitchen was an attempt to highlight women in the ’70s American crime circuit. It didn’t work to its full potential. I’m Your Woman takes a big risk with a big reward. This female-led ’70s crime drama treats audiences to a beautiful film that, while inconsistent, gives us a story that contributes to the conversation of uplifting women’s voices and encouraging female empowerment.
I’m Your Woman is directed and written by Julia Hart (Fast Color, Stargirl). The story follows Jean, a woman forced to go on the run after her husband ends up missing. Shoved out of her house in the middle of the night, Jean and her son are sent into the unknown with nothing more than a bag of cash and a driver named Cal. No one will tell her what is going on.
Never having been on her own, Jean struggles with her new role of mother and finding out what life is like without a man by her side. She learns how things can be in the real world outside of her bubble. The film stars Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, House of Cards) as Jean, Arinzé Kene (The Pass, Flack) as Cal, and Marsha Stephanie Blake (When They See Us, How to Get Away with Murder) as Teri.
The actors do a great job in this film. They deliberately create characters that are flawed but strong and likable. Each actor established themselves in their role early on and continued to prove themselves to the audience through the film. Brosnahan portrays a character we have not seen from her before. Audiences have grown to love her wit, humor, and elegance as Mrs. Maisel, but now they get to see a raw and dark character. Jean is a woman who lived with a criminal, didn’t ask too many questions, and stayed in her place. Her ignorance worked for her until it didn’t. Her fire and sense of command develop through the film and are delivered with earnestness and care from Brosnahan. She isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty and is convincing from start to finish.
Kene gives us a character who defies the stereotypes of a criminal Black man in a ’70s crime drama. He gave us Cal, a likable man stuck in a world that targets and fears him. While we don’t learn the details of Cal’s life until well into the film, he comes off as loyal and trustworthy from the get-go. The audience is instantly informed, by Kene’s demeanor and presence on camera, that Cal is more than a driver.
Blake is known for her portrayal of strong females. Her presence on screen instantly commands attention. As Teri, she shows us a woman who is also defying the stereotypes of the Black female in a ’70s crime drama. She is a mother first, a wife second, and she can handle herself in the most dangerous of situations. Blake’s performance is inviting. She could easily star in her own crime drama that audiences would love.
There is a chemistry between the actors that gives off charm and comradery. The three of them carry the film, despite the shortcomings of the ending.
I’m Your Woman sets the tone right away that things are not as they seem. Jean’s husband, Eddy, comes home one day and gives her a baby with no explanation and no warning. Surprise, you are a mom. Jean is confused, and so is the audience. That confusion stays with Jean and the audience through the film. I’m Your Woman is told from Jean’s point of view, so the audience only gets information that is given to her. This play on the unknown and “audience equal” is intriguing at first. It enhances the drama and thrill. But by the end, the audience just wants an explanation or a glimpse at the bigger picture.
There is a lull in the middle of the film where the story seems to have a hard time figuring out where it is going. This less-than feeling continues through the end of the film. The audience doesn’t get that feeling of completion. We were on a rollercoaster ride that stopped before it got to the platform. We wait for something to happen, and we don’t get to see it unfold. I understand wanting to keep the “audience equal” thing going, but, unfortunately, it’s a bust since the opening was so dramatic and enticing.
I’m Your Woman is about survival. It highlights the strength and tenacity of women, it is smart and creatively shot, and it has a cast that draws you in. If viewers can make it past the stream break, they will appreciate what the film has to offer.
I’m Your Woman will open in select theaters on December 4th ahead of its global launch on Prime Video on December 11, 2020.