I AM WOMAN
(director: Unjoo Moon; screenwriter: Emma Jensen; cinematographer: Dion Beebe; editor: Dany Cooper; music: Rafael May; cast: Tilda Cobham-Hervey (Helen Reddy), Evan Peters (Jeff Wald), Molly Broadstock (Traci), Liam Douglas (Jordan), Danielle Macdonald (Lillian Roxon), Gus Murray (Paul Rankine), Dusty Sorg (Dany Cornelius); Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Rosemary Blight, Unjoo Moon; Goalpost Pictures; 2019)
“The formulaic biopic never rises above its shallowness.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Debuting feature film biopic by director Unjoo Moon, the music-orientated wife of the film’s cinematographer Dion Beebe, is a conventional and flat one about Australian singer Helen Reddy (Tilda Cobham-Hervey), that’s well played by the actress. The formulaic biopic never rises above its shallowness. It lists her prominent songs and in a superficial but genial way tells about her bigger issues in life and her battles with males who run the music industry. She became internationally recognized after her “I am Woman” hit became the unofficial anthem for the 1970s feminists. The film, as written by Emma Jensen, is essentially all about her. Reddy died a few days ago in September 2020 at age 86.
It opens with the singer Reddy arriving from Australia in 1966 with her 3-year-old daughter, settling into a New York City apartment, getting rejections from record companies and befriending the Aussie musical journalist Lillian Roxon (Danielle Macdonald) who she meets on the club circuit. She marries the ambitious talent agent, Jeff Wald (Evan Peters), who meets her needs by telling her he will make her a star. In 1972 the couple move to Los Angeles and she comes out with “I am Woman.”
In public she shines brightly for her fight against sexism, while in private she’s meek and is put down by her husband’s verbal abuse, and develops an ongoing cocaine problem. Many important questions and conflicts about her life are not covered, like her strange beliefs she penned in her 2006 memoir, why she suddenly stopped writing in her latter years and the awkward subservient relationship she had with her husband that so contrasted with her public image as a tough fighter against the male-dominated system.
Reddy, getting a solid performance by Cobham-Hervey, comes off as a cold figure, who fought her way to the top but had big problems in her personal life she couldn’t overcome, like being a neglectful mother.
REVIEWED ON 10/5/2020 GRADE: C+