AMERICAN WOMAN

AMERICAN WOMAN

(director/writer: Jake Scott; screenwriter: Brad Ingelsbury; cinematographer: John Mathieson; editor: Joi McMillon; music: Adam Wiltizie; cast: Sienna Miller (Deb Callahan), Aaron Paul (Chris), Will Sasso (Terry), Amy Madigan (Peggy), Sky Ferreira (Bridget Callahan), Christina Hendricks (Katherine), Pat Healey (Ray), Alex Neustaedter (Tyler), E. Roger Mitchell (Det. Sergeant Morris), Kentucker Audley (Brett), Aiden McGraw (Young Jesse, grandson), Aiden Fiske (Older Jesse); Runtime: 111; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Ridley Scott, Kevin J. Walsh, Michael Pruss, Brad Feinstein; Roadside Attractions/Vertical Entertainment; 2018)

“Though the story lacks depth, Miller’s characterization of the flawed heroine doesn’t.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Jake Scott (“Tooth Fairy”/”Welcome to the Rileys”) directs this bleak indie drama, that spins its wheels around a troubled woman trying to get her act together. Jake’s the son of Ridley Scott. He co-writes it with Brad Ingelsbury and they make it into a sad character story that tells us that once grieving starts there’s no end but to accept it as part of life.

Deb Callahan (Sienna Miller, Brit actress) is a 32-year-old brassy good-time Irish Catholic gal, working as a cashier at the local grocery, and a single mother (who never married and at 16 gave birth to a daughter, and is now a grandmother). She lives in a close-knit small-town in Pennsylvania on a dead-end street, and is wasting away as an alcoholic and living a loose sexual life.During this troubling period, Deb’s dating a married man when her sullen teenage daughter Bridget (Sky Ferreira) goes missing while supposedly on a date with her stoner boyfriend Tyler (Alex Neustaedter), the father of her child Jesse (Aiden McGraw). The police investigate under Sergeant Morris (E. Roger Mitchell) and find nothing in their search, and when they question Tyler they conclude he had nothing to do with the crime. When her daughter never returns, Deb’s left to raise Jesse alone.

Deb reluctantly receives support from her serious-minded older sister Katherine (Christina Hendricks), someone she’s always had a tense relationship with and still feels her interest might be of real concern but is still too intrusive. Sis lives across the street with her nice guy burly husband (Will Sasso) and their children and the sister’s mom (Amy Madigan).

While deeply effected by the tragic events, the grieving Deb tries to straighten out her messy life by acting more mature. After a decade of coping with her loss as best as she can, she starts looking for ways to get her life in order. For starters she takes business courses at the local college and acting nicer to her sis. But she still has bad luck in choosing guys, as she lives with the overbearing caddish asshole Ray (Pat Healey), someone her youngster Jesse can’t stomach. She will dump him and finally meets a younger more trustworthy boyfriend (Aaron Paul) and their relationship becomes serious.

Instead of being a whodunit, the missing teen story is placed on the back-burner to Deb’s makeover melodramatic story of trying to straighten out her life.

Though the story lacks depth, Miller’s characterization of the flawed heroine doesn’t. Miller does a real good job of portraying her as a controlling woman who won’t let others push her around, as she vents out in anger at those who disgust her. Deb’s tough situation, her problems with men and her lack of a good income, talks to many women who are stuck in similar predicaments. Deb lives in hope there will be better days ahead, as she believes the truth about her missing daughter will be revealed some day and there will be closure. In the meantime, Deb refuses to be viewed as a victim to be pitied. Miller’s ability to make her character a strong one, speaks highly of her acting chops. She has bravely taken an uncompromising position in this gritty ‘women’s film’ on how to live and grow as a person despite living in limbo all these years with an overwhelming tragedy.

REVIEWED ON 12/17/2019    GRADE: B    https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/ 

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