The 1970s were prime for a New Hollywood crime wave. From Bonnie and Clyde’s 1967 success and the explosion of the movement, to the decade’s heightening political scandal and growing city crime rates, the time was ripe for young directors to hit the market. Films like Mean Streets, The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Serpico, and Dog Day Afternoon created a new language for cinema to speak, a language that in many cases has since become hackneyed by directors looking to cash in off nostalgia and flair alone. But Director Julie Hart and Screenwriter/Producer Jordan Horowitz speak it fluently in I’M YOUR WOMAN, a re-visitation of the era with a thrilling and refreshingly quiet take, which you can now view on Amazon Prime.
Rachel Brosnahan stars as Jean, a lonely housewife to criminal husband Eddie who one day mysteriously comes home with a baby in his arms and a simple explanation that it is now theirs. Jean takes on the responsibility without questions but remains disconnected and left out of the loop from her husband’s life. We even get a very brief Godfather homage as Eddie closes a door on her when his partners arrive at the house. So, it comes to no surprise when Jean wakes up in the middle of the night to a banging on the front door by one of Eddie’s friends, with an explanation that “something happened” and she needs to leave right now. Jean is fresh with questions but receives very few answers. And so, the story begins.
At first Jean is less than adept to do much on her own, including mothering the child (who she has named Harry) and cooking for them both. And there is far more she is not ready for as she hits the road with violent killers in pursuit, but as the story unfolds, she surprises herself with what she is really capable of doing.
Hart and Horowitz have written a compelling crime story that has an almost transactional relationship with the audience. Since the audience knows even less than Jean at times, every little bit of exposition is a gift that encourages us to stay interested and await the next treat. It’s a film that’s fogged in mystery but capable of expressing shocking violence, that’ll keep viewers on their toes and afraid of what the story will touch if it just reaches out a little further.
For those who know Rachel Brosnahan from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Jean will be a refreshingly mortal presence. Where Midge Maisel is a whirlwind of frantic energy and cosmic talent, Jean is grounded with relatable self-doubt and hesitation. And her chemistry with co-stars Arinze Kene and Marsha Stephanie Blake (who gives this film a rousing boost halfway through), keeps us caring about the characters even as the plot begins to wane or become frustrating at times.
But while the characters speak quietly and the writers keep us in the dark, the production design is lively and loud. Bright homes with yellow wallpaper and shag carpet, and costumes pulled from a 1970s Sears catalogue keep us immersed in the illusion. And yet it never pulls our attention away from the characters. The film uses its needle drops sparingly, and refrains from pointing to references or letting the setting become a character itself.
I’M YOUR WOMAN slowly draws Jean out of a tightly constructed character shell that has been on-screen for decades but rarely examined, in lieu of the macho crime lords that built the anti-hero archetype. It’s a smart film that the genre must welcome and proves that there are still new tricks to be found in these old tropes.
While you’re on Amazon Prime, I suggest you check out The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel for some much needed laughter right now and another pleasant flashback, but this time to the late-1950s. And once you finish this film, you might find it fun to revisit classics like Thelma & Louise or discover Steve McQueen’s Widows that came out in 2018. But whatever you choose, don’t forget to support our Virtual Movie Palace with new titles being added every week—like Another Round, starring Mads Mikkelsen and Denmark’s selection for the 2021 Academy Awards, opening this Friday, which I will be reviewing next Wednesday.
Have a great week!