Unjoo Moon (director)
09 October 2020 (released)
19 October 2020
There’s a continual shifting of focus within I Am Woman; the film ebbs between Helen Reddy’s personal story and breaking America and the feminist movement of the late 60s onwards campaigning for equal rights from women. Though the bias flows towards Reddy as she battles indifference, ignorance and misogyny though her ideals are clear throughout the film.
Arriving in New York in 1966 from Australia with her young daughter Tracy, Helen Reddy (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) is given a short sharp lesson in the ways of the music business when a promised recording contract is welshed on and she is taken advantage of by club owners paying her less than the band because she is in the country illegally, and she’s a woman.
According to the industry The Beatles have changed everything and women singers are just not viable. Almost destitute Reddy meets Jeff Warn (Evan Peters) through her journalist friend Lilian Roxon (Danielle Macdonald), an ambitious manager who befriends her, become lovers and eventually marrying.
Moving the family to Los Angeles promising to work on her behalf and get a deal and concerts, Wald gets side-tracked with Deep Purple, with the excuse that they are what people want to hear, to which Reddy replies but women don’t! Reddy pushes him to make the opportunities happen eventually having to lock Jeff in his office, forcing him to repeatedly call Capitol records until they finally bend and agree to let her record a single.
From then on they prosper, TV, concert and album offers come flooding in as well as the money. So far so conventional a bio-pic it’s here that the equalities issues and career start to intertwine with the growing movement in the US for women’s rights. We also see a marked assertiveness and confidence in Reddy during interviews and in her push to get I Am Woman released as a single, which is patronisingly laughed off during a record company meeting.
Relegated to an album track, through hard marketing it eventually became a hit and an anthem for the women’s movement. At the same time Warn and Reddy’s relationship deteriorates due to his drug habit and financial decisions that wreck the stability of the family
It’s obvious why director Unjoo Moon and writer Emma Jensen concentrated on this particular time in Reddy’s life; from a difficult start she reaches her career's critical and commercial heights plus her growing involvement in contentious equality issues of the day. It also allows them develop her character from her nervy New York early days to being confident and (mostly) in control during the golden years. The film does drift into the 80’s, hinting at a drop in sales, her desire to return to jazz and her retirement from music only to re-emerge several years later.
Also from a plainly dramatic perspective there’s the tussles with Jeff as he struggles with his demons and his wife’s success and the wider social changes. Peters and Cobham-Hervey are excellent in their roles as the fractious couple but the pathos is with Macdonald as Lilian, the friend cruelly cast adrift in the wake of Helen’s success.
And that is the main problem with the film Its cohesive enough and doesn’t jar as the events unfold it’s just lacks any real emotional depth, that is right up until the final section of the film. That doesn’t include the short character profiles at the end that are out of date as Helen Reddy sadly passed away within a month of the film’s release.
I Am Woman is currently on theatrical release and available on digital platforms.