Meaning well doesn’t always get the pay off it deserves…
I Am Woman is a standard cookie cutter bio pic about the life of recording artist and woman’s rights activist Helen Reddy. While it manages an entertaining yet somewhat bloated pace it ultimately deserved a little better then the treatment it gets here.
In 1966, single-mother Helen Reddy (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) leaves her old life in Australia for New York and stardom, only to find that the industry’s male gatekeepers don’t take her seriously. Helen finds an encouraging friend in legendary rock journalist Lillian Roxon (Danielle Macdonald), who becomes her closest confidant. When ambitious aspiring talent manager Jeff Wald (Evan Peters) sweeps Helen off her feet, everything changes as he becomes both her husband and manager and relocates the family to California. With a strong push from Helen, Jeff secures her a recording contract and subsequent string of hit singles, including the iconic megahit “I Am Woman.” Increased fame leads to added pressures on themselves and their relationship, forcing Helen to find the strength to take control of her own destiny.
Ultimately, there’s really nothing wrong with I Am Woman as a film…but there’s nothing really right with it either. It’s filled with plenty of music to keep us engaged with a decent performance from our leading lady, but it rushes through history to just make sure we get some very high gloss musical montages.
The movie looks good as director Unjoo Moon turns her first narrative feature into a visually engaging and attractive affair. And while the script from screenwriter Emma Jensen has some real flow, it also has some real padding to it as well. Sure we get roped in with the music well enough but the actual narrative of it plays in such a banal fashion that it’s genuinely hard to get invested in the characters. Moon makes it all look good and you appreciate the scale that she’s working on to pull this off, but overall the film just had too much sizzle and not nearly enough steak to it. Helen Reddy was unquestionably an interesting character in the pop culture landscape of the time, but the material never allows for any genuine emotional moments for us to get invested in these people.
That being said Tilda Cobham-Hervey certainly brings the poise and the presence to play Helen Reddy on screen, but the script just didn’t have enough meat on its bones to be able to do anything relevant. Actors Evan Peters and Danielle McDonald just weren’t well served enough in the script to do anything meaningful as her coked up ex-husband and estranged best friend while the rest on the ensemble was pretty forgettable.
There’s no doubting that the story of the life and career of Helen Reddy deserved a big screen treatment, but it wasn’t this. I Am Woman is basically a slick Coles Notes version of the life of this music star and feminist icon, Reddy and her fans deserved a lot better then this.