Collateral damage isn’t something an audience tends to consider when they’re watching a gritty crime thriller. The lives of the families affected by the decisions made by the gangsters on screen as they shake things up is of no concern in the mind of a movie watcher awaiting the action from a hit or a shoot-out. Hardly anyone considers the health of a patron from Scorsese’s Casino fearing for their life or what happened to the laundry place De Niro burned down in The Irishman. I’m Your Woman is a crime drama that gives viewers the perspective of the wife of one of these criminals and takes into account how the fallout from those actions can affect the people around them.
When the movie opened on bored housewife Jean’s (Rachel Brosnahan) thoughts on motherhood and cut to her husband Eddie (Bill Heck) standing in the doorway with a baby for her, I immediately thought I’m Your Woman was going to be a serious concept to the Coen brothers’ film Raising Arizona. Things change overnight for Jean as she and her baby are ushered out of her house with two-hundred grand and into a car with stranger, Cal (Arinzé Kene). All the viewer knows is that Jean and her baby have targets on their back over something that Eddie has done and that he has, through certain channels, asked Cal to get her away from the danger that’s coming for them.
From the start, the film does a great job of anticipating the thoughts of the audience, adapting and changing so it doesn’t get caught up in identifiable genre clichés. When Jean and Cal leave on the run the film could have easily turned itself into a bodyguard film, but after getting her to a new location Cal has to return to the city, leaving Brosnahan to carry the film on her own for a time. This isn’t the Midge Maisel character you might be used to seeing Brosnahan play, but any fan of her dramatic roles in Manhattan or House of Cards knows she has the talent and charisma to carry a picture like I’m Your Woman.
I think of a character like Edie Falco’s Carmela in The Sopranos, who is in the similar situation of knowing exactly who her husband is even if she doesn’t know the precise details. From the start we see Jean witness the company her husband keeps but she never concerns herself enough to upset the lifestyle she finds herself in. Unlike Carmela Soprano, Jean is sometimes treated like a parcel in the film, moved from one location to another and going with the flow. The idea of a mobster keeping his wife in the dark is hardly a new idea but the perspective of giving a character like Jean a voice as the wife in this situation is a fantastic change of pace for the genre, especially when Eddie’s part of the story is played out as word of him trickles back to Jean throughout the film.
My biggest problem with I’m Your Woman is in the depth of Jean’s character—here is a woman who is ripped from the world that she knew with a husband who kept things from her now alone with a child being hunted by vicious mobsters and she’s taking this traumatic event all in stride. There are a couple of scenes where you can really feel the weight of Jean’s situation—one where a carton of eggs reminds her of something her husband said and another in a laundromat—but mostly Jean never unleashes her aggravation or animosity for the chaotic danger that Eddie has thrown her and Harry into. Though Brosnahan plays Jean fantastically, she’s stymied by the character’s lack of emotional dialogue throughout the situation. The only time Jean ever feels the need to get in anyone’s face is Teri’s after Art shows her how to use a gun, something that seems slightly more understandable given Jean’s circumstances after Cal comes to her aid following her first relocation. Not that the situation doesn’t deserve the conversation, I just felt the film could have benefited from more of Jean’s thoughts and raw emotion as Jean’s silence sometimes feels more like acceptance for a completely unacceptable situation.
Jean goes through an emotional whirlwind of an experience and if anyone deserves to bare the emotional spectrum of the weight of their situation she does, especially where the character arc is suggesting Jean’s adaptability from in-the-dark housewife to a place of newfound self-reliance. The script from writer/director Julia Hart and collaborator/husband Jordan Horowitz also finds itself exposed to a bit of unevenness in its second act when it tends to focus on Jean’s budding friendship with Cal’s wife, Teri (Marsha Stephanie Blake), and father, Art (Frankie Faison), as they become targets as well, but the film pulls through without becoming boring or tiresome.
I’m Your Woman’s greatest strength is definitively in the acting from Brosnahan, Blake, and Kene who all play their parts fantastically and with a real sense of empowerment, but there are also some really fantastic feats in its cinematography, art direction, and music as well. When you notice the film’s jazz infused score in specific scenes or how the wallpaper design in a hotel room both fits the era it was filmed in as well as the tone of the scene simply because of the way it was framed then you know people are doing their job on a high caliber level and those moving parts coming together is a great reflection on Julia Hart’s overall direction of the film as well. I’m Your Woman isn’t a perfect picture, but it is entertaining as it brings an original story and point of view not often considered in similar films and in a world of remakes and reboots it’s always refreshing to see a new idea.