I’m Your Woman (2020) is the kind of film that gets better the longer you sit with it. This is an effect a lot of great crime stories have on this writer, as they are often uniquely able to end in a wildly different place than where they begin. With her fourth feature, Julia Hart departs significantly from her previous work, crafting a 1970s crime drama that puts a unique spin on a familiar story. While it does not always hit the mark, it remains a compelling entry that would slot comfortably alongside the work of author George Pelecanos or staples like The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973).
“Eddie and Jean met and fell in love; Eddie and Jean got married and bought a house; Eddie and Jean were gonna have a kid but didn’t, so every morning Eddie kisses Jean, Eddie leaves the house, and Jean is alone.”
The film’s opening moments seem poised to be an exploration of suburban ennui, as Jean (Rachel Brosnahan) moves listlessly through her day, alone and disengaged. Until one day her husband, Eddie (Bill Heck) returns home with a baby that he insists is now theirs. They name him Harry, and while Jean appears to take to motherhood easily, she remains aloof; wordlessly but still notably reluctant to ask any questions or get too attached. Any notion of a domestic drama is dispelled when Jean is awakened in the middle of the night by an associate of her husband. The man gives her a duffel with $200K and tells her she and the baby will have to disappear under the protection of Cal (Arinze Kene). It turns out that Eddie is a small time hood who has landed himself in some kind of trouble, the kind of trouble that might come looking for Jean and her new baby.
The script by Hart (and co-written by producer/husband Jordan Horowitz) is whip-smart, subverting expectations and packing twists that keep the story moving in surprising ways. Jean’s ignorance is both the film’s greatest strength and its primary weakness; by centering the action around her, Hart is largely able to avoid well-trodden ground, putting a fresh twist on an otherwise familiar story. The addition of characters like Cal’s wife, Teri (Marsha Stephanie Blake) is particularly effective, shaking things up in a dynamic way that feels perfectly in line with the film’s larger aims.
At times, however, the script seems to be holding back too much simply for the sake of adding intrigue to what is ultimately a pretty straightforward tale. It is most evident when the film moves away from its central characters; too much of the action driving the film happens offscreen, or with little context provided. Similarly, the bad guys lack the same depth that makes its protagonist so good. Instead, they are the most familiar thing in the film, posturing like period appropriate Tarantino knock-offs, the result of which makes the threat to Jean feel a bit less effective than it ought to. By and large, these are minor complaints, as the film manages to pay off much of what it sets up in very satisfying fashion.
Those who are familiar with Brosnahan from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel are in for one hell of a pleasant surprise, as Jean is light years away from Midge, and yet every bit as easy to root for. While it is not a one-woman show, the success of the film rests in large part on her shoulders, and her performance really comes alive as the film progresses. While credit goes to Hart and Horowitz for crafting a believable character arc, Brosnahan proves that she has a long career ahead of her by selling the journey of a woman whose life has been turned inside out.
In spite of a few weaknesses, the compelling performances and unique spin are more than enough to make it worth a watch. By the end, I’m Your Woman proves to be a thrilling, unpredictable ride.