The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Amazon] - I’M YOUR WOMAN | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Amazon] - I’M YOUR WOMAN

i'm your woman review
A gangster's wife is forced to go into hiding with her adopted infant son.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Julia Hart

Starring: Rachel Brosnahan, Arinzé Kene, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Bill Heck, Frankie Faison, Marceline Hugot, James McMenamin

i'm your woman poster

There's a scene in Julia Hart's 1970s set crime thriller I'm Your Woman that sees a mob heavy take his boss's moll to a safe house in the woods. Telling her that he has to leave her alone, he shows her a secret trapdoor hidden under a rug. That's all well and good, but how are you supposed to pull the rug back over the trap door once you've concealed yourself? Anyone who walks into the house is immediately going to notice the handle sticking out of the floor.

This is one of several moments that are indicative of how ill-conceived both the criminals' plans and the filmmakers' script are. I'm Your Woman is filled with so many dumb decisions on the part of its protagonists and its creators that you'll have torn your hair out by the closing credits, if you make it that far.

i'm your woman review

Hart's film begins in the promising territory of the sub-genre of crime thrillers that see their protagonists saddled with kids. It's a formula that bore juicy fruit for John Cassavetes (Gloria), Eric Red (Cohen & Tate) and Luc Besson (Leon), but Hart's attempt is all crunch and little munch.

Rachel Brosnahan is an inert presence as gangster's moll Jean, who receives two surprise early on courtesy of her no-good husband Eddie (Bill Heck). The first surprise is the baby boy he arrives home with one day, the couple having tried in vain to have a child of their own. The second comes in the middle of the night when an associate of Eddie forces Jean and the rugrat to flee the city with a young henchman, Cal (Arinzé Kene), assigned to keep her safe.

I'm Your Woman's opening act is a mildly engaging road movie, as Cal and Jean share a bickering relationship and attempt to avoid the attention of the police. Pairing a white woman with a young black man in 1970s America is probably the worst way to remain anonymous, but like I said, we're not dealing with criminal masterminds here.

i'm your woman review

Things come to a dramatic and literal standstill when Jean is dropped off at a safe house and the film switches from a passable chase thriller to a plodding drama that unfolds on the outskirts of a mob drama. For much of the movie, characters tell us about how much exciting stuff is occurring off screen, as though a more enticing movie is unspooling on its narrative periphery. It's the crime thriller equivalent of the "I'm at a party, my friends are just out of frame" meme.

Hart may be aiming for the atmosphere of Jean-Pierre Melville's distinctive crime thrillers, which similarly focus largely on criminals waiting and preparing for action, rather than on the action itself. But the filmmaking styles are chalk and cheese. Where Melville is an almost unparalleled master of visual storytelling, Hart and co-writer Jordan Horowitz rely on expository dialogue to tell their story. Their characters are always dropping soapy revelations that fail to land because we barely know the people they're referring to. And of course, in Melville's films we're always fascinated by the professionalism of his criminal anti-heroes, whereas here they're a bunch of amateurs who go out of their way to get themselves in trouble.

i'm your woman review

For a thriller like this to work, the audience has to be one-step ahead of the protagonists. We need to have a sense of how close Jean is to danger at any given point, but we're kept in the dark as to who exactly is out to get her. Any potential for nerve-jangling suspense is squandered and in its place we get brief shocks, as villains appear out of nowhere. As Hitchcock was oft to say, a bomb suddenly exploding is nowhere near as effective as one ticking under a table.

Along with the shoddy storytelling, what really prevents us from getting invested in Jean's plight is how the film never reckons with what an awful person she is. There's a pivotal moment where the film lost me, and it involves the killing of an innocent bystander. Jean briefly acts shocked, but in the scene that immediately follows she's laughing and enjoying a diner singalong with Cal. And then of course there's the question of her infant "son", who has clearly been procured outside legal channels. As the film asks us to warm to Jean and the kid's relationship, I couldn't help but wonder if there was a grieving mother bawling her eyes out somewhere.

I'm Your Woman
 is on Amazon Prime Video now.

2020 movie reviews