3 out of 5
Directed by: Julia Hart
I’m Your Woman is almost too riskily linear in its presentation to work. It hangs on via dangled carrot: the sense that we’re a scene or two away from something breaking, for better or worse, and once it does break, the film starts to throttle forward on all levels – the visuals become tighter; the casting clicks; the concept suddenly makes sense. …But it does take its time getting there.
Rachel Brosnahan is smartly cast in a more humdrum variant of her role in Mrs. Maisel – whereas that show has a kind of overblown sense of reality to work with its comedic tone, here, Brosnahan’s disenchant as Jean, wife of a man-with-the-business-that-pays-for-things-and-which-she-doesn’t-ask-about, is of a more purposeful variety, keeping distance from things which may affect her generally settled life. She’s bored, but in the way most of us get bored in our daily habits, and she’s content to sit about in pretty dresses, listening to music and smoking. She doesn’t question when her husband, Eddie, brings home a child and proclaims it as theirs. She starts to question when she’s woken up in the middle of the night, handed cash, and sent on her way to hideout with a bodyguard of sorts named Cal (Arinzé Kene), but she still, overall, puts up with it and shuts up.
As this goes on, her questions get more direct. Information starts to trickle out – Eddie killed “the boss;” no one knows where Eddie is; Cal’s been given instructions to keep Jean out of harm’s way. And then, eventually, she wants answers, and she’s learning how to use a gun and heading out to get those answers…
But ‘I’m Your Woman’ isn’t exactly that movie – you know the one: the crime / noir flick in which the innocent gets dragged in to the underworld – rather, it’s the movie leading up to that movie. Which is definitely an interesting idea, and director / writer Julia Hart and co-writer Jordan Horowitz construct a relatively smart approach – and again, Brosnahan’s casting is inspired, as the actress excels at looks and poise that suggest things working ‘neath the surface while the surface is in denial – but the film can’t quite finds its tone until it’s allowed to dole out some answers, and let the curtain drop. Up to that point, the visuals and shooting style are too restrained to suggest any particular vibe; the characters are appreciably intelligent, but dialogue occasionally slips into cheesy cliche to indicate when things are progressing along the naive-to-aware curve. And there are odd beats that aim for poignancy but, in this partially open-ended presentation, they fall flat.
…Until, again, things really get real for Jean, which occurs during a scene at a night club. Suddenly the camerawork is claustrophobic and the lighting runs warm and col; suddenly those beats are landing with impact. I do think this is a stylistic choice, to sort of keep things running steady until they no longer can, I just wish that this was undercut with a bit more tension beyond the assumption that, eventually, something is going to happen.
The music (Aska Matsumiya) is phenomenal throughout, adding in notes of mystery and ominousness that the movie itself is initially lacking, and though Brosnahan’s performance is limited, initially, by this same tonal wishy-washiness, she puts a lot into it that pays off – as with everything else in the movie – once it gets going. Kene is also excellent, and the gaggle of baby actors are great – lots of personality and awareness, making me actually appreciate the cuteness and individuality of a kid when I usually couldn’t care less.