Some Crime Families (Film Review: “I’m Your Woman”)

A new kind of Feminist Thriller genre proves that Motherhood is worth killing for.

SnapShot Plot

Recently the subject of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel came up, fueling a discussion of how perfectly cast is Rachel Brosnahan as the plucky New Yorker, Midge Maisel. And yet – due to Covid slowdowns in production schedules – we may have to wait another year to find out what will befall Midge and her manager, Susie in the wilds of the entertainment circuit. So I’ve had a hankering for Rachel Brosnahan.

I’m Your Woman satisfied that itch, and how. Set in Philadelphia and beyond, it’s about Jean, a bored and isolated young housewife in the 70s whose slick, crime world husband, Eddie shows up one day with a baby boy tucked under his arm like a Thanksgiving turkey he’s presenting to his wife to be cooked. Jean’s learned to keep conversations on a need-to-know basis with her husband so she accepts this ‘gift’ without much further ado.

She rather grimly takes to the task of caring for the baby boy (who she calls Harry) when in the middle of the night, Jean’s world is violently turned upside down and inside out. Literally turned onto the street with a bag full of cash, Jean and Harry are entrusted to the care of a total stranger named Cal (played by ArinzĂ© Kene), whose job it is to hide them for an undisclosed period of time. All Jean’s allowed to know is that at one time, Cal worked for Eddie and this is some form of payback for a mysterious debt she’s not supposed to ask about.

For his part, Cal is a blank sheet, refusing to reveal anything of his personal history, such as how he happens to have such a way with babies, or why he refuses to light the many cigarettes he pretends to smoke. Jean is a quick study, however, and her curiosity about Cal seems a welcome respite from the torturous question mark hanging over her life. As the best-laid plans often do, things unravel and Cal makes one last decision about sheltering Jean and Harry, a decision which may spell their demise or their salvation, as the case may be.

Parting Shot

Julia Hart directed I’m Your Woman from a screenplay she co-wrote with Jordan Horowitz, delivering an ingenious, multi-level film that struck its multiple chords with confident intensity.

On one level, it’s very much a crime thriller, with plenty of action sequences and the suspenseful interplay between murky characters with mysterious motives. But overwhelmingly, I’m Your Woman exists on a Feminist track, telling a story of marital repression, patriarchy and feminine objectification. For example, as Jean points out, she’s never been alone in her life. Eddie wouldn’t even allow her to drive a car.

Cal leaves Jean alone with Harry for long stretches of time – days, even weeks perhaps – and it’s this middle period of the film that exists on its own, forming a kind of film within a film – in which Jean is actually and profoundly alone, learning to fend for herself, learning to be a nurturing mother, learning who she really is as a person. It’s this quiet and shockingly tranquil inner portrait that the filmmakers took such a chance to include within the confines of a crime thriller genre.

But that soon comes to yet another violent and shocking end, when in the final chapter of the film, Jean learns the truth about Eddie and the mystery of Cal is revealed, as is his own world which will join hers on a parallel track no one saw coming.

Fact: Brosnahan can tackle an exceptionally grim and often violent storyline with the best of them, so entwined in the role of a vacant and unfulfilled crime boss’s wife that there were literally no traces of Midge anywhere to be seen. Except perhaps in the degree of sarcasm Jean expresses when men she hardly knows are ordering her around like a puppet and then act surprised when she demands to know what’s become of her husband. Then a little Midge creeps out.

This is no Married to the Mob and Rachel Brosnahan is no Michelle Pfeiffer who – in that mob movie spoof – cries with mascara streaming down her face that everything in her house fell off the back of a truck. Indeed, Brosnahan’s character seems desperate to cut out the tags from a lingerie ensemble her husband presumably gave her – the same day he gave her the baby – in apparently willful ignorance about where her comfortable suburban lifestyle comes from. It’s wrong and she knows it. She just doesn’t know herself well enough to know she’s worth more.

I’m Your Woman is presently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Norma’s Streaming Picks is proud to partner on a fantastic site for Baby Boomers, Midcentury/Modern (presently known as Pandemic Diaries) as well as right here at home. I invite you to go there for more great content!

YouTube Trailer

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