Director Julia Hart has a penchant for crafting complex, engaging female characters. Her first three directorial efforts (Miss Stevens, Fast Color, and Stargirl) are unique in their own right, showcasing Hart’s carefully crafted, evenly paced style. Hart’s newest feature, I’m Your Woman, doesn’t deviate from form, but at the same time, is an entirely new experience that showcases Hart’s versatility as a director. Co-written with Jordan Horowitz, I’m Your Woman is a stylish, slow-burning crime thriller based in the seventies. Set in a time where gangster flicks were at their peak, Hart doesn’t allow her film to fall to decades-old tropes.
The film opens with Jean (Rachel Brosnahan) lounging in a hot pink, feathered robe with her shades. She is smoking a cigarette, staring into the distance. She looks effortlessly cool and carefree, and almost as if she wouldn’t be able to fend for herself if her life depended on it. However, that all changes when Jean notices some pesky tags and tears through the house to look for something to cut them. While she painstakingly tries to remove the tag, her husband Eddie (Bill Heck) appears out of nowhere with a baby that seemingly appears out of nowhere. Demonstrating the nature of their relationship, Eddie merely states, “It’s our baby,” and Jean neglects to question it. Over the course of their marriage, Eddie seemingly comes and goes as he pleases.
Overnight, Eddie disappears and doesn’t return. Suddenly, Jean is forced to go on the run with no real explanation, taken under the wing of Cal (Arinzé Kene). Forced to learn about the nature of her husband’s secret activities, Jean narrowly escapes gunslinging gangsters on multiple occasions. After a brush with death in town, Cal takes Jean- with a baby still in tow to a retreat in the woods, where his wife, Teri (Marsha Stephanie Blake), and their son are also in hiding. Teri also has a surprise connection to Eddie, which fuels the remainder of the film.
The first half of I’m Your Woman is a lingering slow-burn, quietly crawling to its more fast-paced second half. The action comes in spurts, with long periods of subdued dialogue in between. With a slew of subtle twists and turns, I’m Your Woman constantly leads the audience to believe it’s going in one direction, then takes them in another. This is both a good and bad thing, as sometimes it feels as if we’re left in a constant state of anticipation. For the most part, Jean and Eddie’s backstory is largely a mystery. Bill Heck’s character isn’t as important as he’s made out to be, allowing Jean to be in the driver’s seat. A step away from other seventies period films, Julia Hart allows her female characters the opportunity to take the lead.
Regardless of its pacing, the performances are the best aspect of I’m Your Woman. Brosnahan, now familiar for her spunky, comedic role as Midge Maisel in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, takes a serious turn as Jean. When we’re introduced to Jean, she seems devoid of emotion, almost detached from her adopted son. As the story unravels, so does Jean, cracks appearing in her polished housewife exterior. Giving a career-best performance, Brosnahan will break into this winter’s discussions as awards season progresses.
Over the course of the Jean evolves from a simple housewife to the gun-toting, shrewd survivor. Learning how to fend for herself, Jeans becomes an unlikely heroine. The storyline doesn’t depend on any of its male characters to save the day or even reemerge. The remainder of the cast also shines within their roles. Arinzé Kene and Marsha Stephanie Blake are wonderful additions. Both sentimental yet stern, the couple plays well with Brosnahan. James McMenamin and Frankie Faison are also great in their brief screentime.
A satisfactory entry into the fall film season, I’m Your Woman proves that Julia Hart should continue to make films. Intelligent and well-crafted, the feature is entertaining and provides a worthy payoff. Accented by the gritty cinematography of Bryce Fortner, I’m Your Woman is more about the atmosphere of survival as opposed to tying up loose ends and answering your burning questions. It’s one woman’s journey to independence, and that’s all that should matter.