Review by Camden Ferrell
I Am Woman is a musical biopic that premiered at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. Director Unjoo Moon’s narrative feature debut has since played at other festivals. This movie takes its famous subject and tells her story that isn’t always entertaining but benefits greatly from its cast.
Helen Reddy is an aspiring singer who leaves her life in Australia to pursue a career in the United States. After falling for a talent manager, her career skyrockets, and we watch as she deals with the increased pressure that fame brings. Reddy is a very famous singer who is well-known, and her story makes for a fascinating premise for this film.
Emma Jensen’s script doesn’t do too much to set itself apart from other biopics. It is a fairly strong script, and it characterizes its lead fairly well, but it’s an otherwise adequate script that doesn’t do anything particularly witty or ground-breaking. It has some funny exchanges and good moments of tension, and it’s a solid foundation for the film.
The performances in this movie are what make the movie as enjoyable as it is. Tilda Cobham-Hervey gives a phenomenal turn as Reddy, and she is a fantastic lead with a captivating screen presence. She does well during the musical performances and as well as with her co-stars. Alongside her, Evan Peters co-stars, and he also gives a really noteworthy performance as Reddy’s husband and manager. Additionally, Danielle Macdonald gives a decent but not prominent performance as rock journalist Lillian Roxon.
Moon’s direction is decent throughout, but it can’t help but feel like it has been done before. The blocking and execution of many scenes are about what you would expect from musical biopics. However, there are some really well-made scenes in which Reddy is performing. The cinematography is pretty great in these moments and help elevate the scene.
Obviously, a big part of a musical biopic is its music. For those not familiar with Reddy’s music, this movie will still be a musical joy as her music is timeless and catchy. When your subject is Reddy, the musical performances and soundtrack are bound to be excellent, and this movie definitely delivers in this regard.
In addition to the great music and performances, this movie has a timely message of overcoming adversity and achieving your dreams. This may be a cliché message, but it’s one that coincides with the cultural context of the women’s rights movement. Despite taking place decades ago, this is a movie with some timely themes for people of all ages.
I Am Woman is on par with many other musical biopics in the last few years. It may meander and be somewhat bland at times, but there are some great performances throughout that more than compensate for the film’s shortcomings. This is a simple and fun movie for a general audience.
I Am Woman will be available in theaters and on VOD September 11.