Movie Review: Rachel Brosnahan Assures Everyone, ‘I’m Your Woman’

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I’m Your Woman (CREDIT: Wilson Webb/Amazon Studios)

Starring: Rachel Brosnahan, Arinzé Kene, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Bill Heck, Frankie Faison, Marceline Hugot

Director: Julia Hart

Running Time: 120 Minutes

Rating: R for Deadly Gunshots and Tough Guy Language

Release Date: December 4, 2020 (Select Theaters)/December 11, 2020 (Amazon Prime Video)

Do you think you would be entertained if someone told Rachel Brosnahan that she needed to leave her house immediately and then gave her a gun just in case, even though she’s never handled one before? Surely, there are plenty of people who believe that “woman on the run + gun” is a foolproof formula for quality cinema. When that woman is the star of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, it turns out that she is more than up for the task. Did I mention that there’s also a baby in the mix? Because that’s pretty important. As very frustrated housewife (or house-less-wife) Jean, Brosnahan spends a significant portion of I’m Your Woman with a baby in one hand and a gun in the other. She’s not quite sure how she ended up in this mess, and neither are we, but goshdangit if she doesn’t convince us that we’re all going to make it through together unscathed.

It all kicks off as an unholy mix of The Godfather and Raising Arizona dressed up in the most 1970s of full-length trench coats. We meet Jean when she’s been struggling through miscarriage after miscarriage, but then one day her husband Eddie (Bill Heck) shows up at their front door with a random infant in tow. Soon after, he’s closing a door on her so that he can talk shop with some guys in private in much the same way that Michael Corleone kept Kay shut off from his business. While Jean never quite learns what Eddie is up to, she does know that it is very, very bad, as Eddie’s associate Cal (Arinzé Kene) soon shows up to whisk her and the baby off to a series of safe houses. Eventually Cal’s family joins in on the mission as well, and Jean basically becomes reborn as the ultimate survivor.

Structurally, I’m Your Woman works in fits and starts, kind of by design. There are significant stretches of Jean just sitting around watching TV and nodding off in the middle of the afternoon, occasionally waking up to look over her shoulder. These segments are rather numbing, but we’re meant to absorb her simmering anxiety. They’re surrounded by a series of high-tension car rides, nightclub shootouts, and good old-fashioned running towards some semblance of safety. Consistently carrying us through both all the numb and all the exciting is Brosnahan’s steely resolve. It’s a big ask to give any lead actor that much cinematic responsibility, but she’s ready to take care of us.

I’m Your Woman is Recommended If You Like: Focusing on the characters who are usually given short shrift, Long Tan Trench Coats, Aretha Franklin covers

Grade: 3 out of 5 Secrets

This Is a Movie Review: The Coen Brothers Sing ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’ and Other Tales in This Western Anthology

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CREDIT: Netflix

This review was originally published on News Cult in November 2018.

Starring: Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco, Stephen Root, Tom Waits, Liam Neeson, Harry Melling, Zoe Kazan, Bill Heck, Tyne Daly, Brendan Gleeson

Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen

Running Time: 132 Minutes

Rating: R for Surprisingly, Perhaps Hilariously, Deadly Gunfire

Release Date: November 8, 2018 (Limited Theatrically)/November 16, 2018 (Streaming on Netflix)

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs has a Buster Scruggs problem. That is to say: Buster’s not in it enough! That can be the trouble with anthology films in which no characters appear in more than one segment. This issue can be alleviated, at least somewhat, if there are multiple memorable roles. But when Tim Blake Nelson saunters into town in his white cowboy suit, guitar in tow, he immediately wins us over with his storytelling aplomb, extreme self-confidence, and superhuman marksmanship. As Buster’s is the first story, he sets a rollicking, self-aware tone that makes us want to spend as much time with him as possible. Alas, it is not meant to be. But surely, he could have been a narrator or a wandering troubadour throughout! As it is, though, his arrival brings us pleasure, while his quick departure only leaves us hungry for more.

The other segments are more scattershot, but if you believe that the Coen brothers’ droll humor belongs in a Western setting, then you should find enough to enjoy. The three chapters immediately following the titular kickoff – in which bank robber James Franco gets his comeuppance, Liam Neeson puts on a travelling show, and Tom Waits goes prospecting for gold, respectively – wrap up before they are able to have much of an impact. It gets better and deeper with “The Girl Who Got Rattled,” in which Zoe Kazan plays a single frontierswoman who must summon an unexpected amount of independence, while also dealing with a surprising, but perhaps promising, marriage proposal. It’s actually quite sweet, but then a Coen-style cruel twist of fate swoops in, leaving you a little devastated but narratively satisfied. The concluding chapter, “The Mortal Remains,” is more of a tone piece than anything else, with a group of strangers in a carriage on its way to somewhere resembling purgatory, or maybe even Hell. As one of the passengers, Tyne Daly is a force of nature to bring us home, but even she cannot quite protect us in this harsh landscape. It’s an otherworldly approach befitting filmmakers who are heavily influenced by the Old Testament God, and while I may find The Ballad of Buster Scruggs to be a minor Coen effort, it is not without plenty to chew over.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is Recommended If You Like: Coen brothers comedy in general, but can deal with scattershot results

Grade: 3 out of 5 Color Plates