Taking on material that could, in lesser hands, feel well-worn is certainly a challenge. Do it poorly and it’s easy to spot where you went wrong. Luckily, filmmaker Julia Hart is far too smart and talented for that. With I’m Your Woman, Hart has added layers, as well as subversion, to the sort of period crime drama we see all the time. Moreover, she’s got Rachel Brosnahan in the lead role, delivering a compelling performance that quickly ropes you in. The more you see of this movie, the more you want to see, and that’s a real ace up its sleeve. Amazon Studios may not quite have an Oscar player on their hands, but it’s a rock solid film that’s well worth seeing.
I’m Your Woman has the nifty concept of following the sort of character who’s usually an afterthought in genre fare. The wife who stays silent while the husband is up to potentially nefarious deeds is a trope, to be clear. However, we almost never see what they actually go through, let alone follow them as they grow into more three-dimensional human beings. It’s really a treat to watch.
Crime dramas or thrillers of this ilk are almost always male focused, so the gender swap offers up a lot of opportunities. While some may find the pacing a little slow, or the ultimate wrapping up of the plot a little too neat, but that pales in comparison to the central performance on display.
Set in the 1970s, we meet Jean (Brosnahan) just as her life is about to change. First, her husband Eddie (Bill Heck) comes home one day with a baby. The couple have apparently wanted a child for some time, and now they have one. Jean knows better than to ask where the infant came from, as Eddie’s dealings do not seem to be legal. Then, soon after, his cohorts wake her up in the middle of the night and usher her from their home. Eddie has disappeared and left instructions to keep his wife safe. Under the watchful eye of Cal (Arinzé Kene), she sets forth into the night.
On the run, they hope to stay one step ahead of some dangerous folks. Eventually, Cal needs to figure out what’s going on, so he leaves her in the care of his wife Teri (Marsha Stephanie Blake) and her father Art (Frankie Faison). Of course, Jean can only stay safe for so long, so she’s going to have to learn not only to defend herself, but to really come into her own.
Rachel Brosnahan is quite good here, and it’s essential, considering how she’s basically in every single frame of the film. Internalizing a ton of emotion, we watch as Brosnahan allows Jean to slowly come into her own. Looking at how the character acts in the first scene, as opposed to the last, is a testament to strong acting and storytelling. Supporting players like Marsha Stephanie Blake, Frankie Faison, and Arinzé Kene are solid, but Brosnahan is truly the star.
Julia Hart, along with her co-writer and husband Jordan Horowitz, crafted a screenplay that oozes intelligence. The movie plays its cards close to the vest, allowing the mystery of the plot to slowly unveil itself. Moreover, the evolution of the characters is of even more concern than the story, which is a deft move. Hart and Horowitz are a fine-tuned machine, so throw in Brosnahan and you really have something here.
I’m Your Woman takes the partnership of Rachel Brosnahan, Julia Hart, and Jordan Horowitz, merges them together, and a strong film results from it. As long as you don’t get caught up in wondering if anyone involved is going to score an Academy Award nomination (Hart and Horowitz are long shots in Best Original Screenplay, while Brosnahan has an outside chance to contend in Best Actress), you’ll get a real kick out of this one. It’s good stuff, with a great performance at its core.