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

‘The Photograph’ Captures Generations of Love Blossoming and Spreading Free

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CREDIT: Universal Pictures

Starring: Issa Rae, Lakeith Stanfield, Chanté Adams, Y’lan Noel, Rob Morgan, Lil Rel Howery, Teyonah Parris, Courtney B. Vance, Chelsea Peretti, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Jasmine Cephas Jones, Marsha Stephanie Blake

Director: Stella Meghie

Running Time: 106 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Some Sizzling Moments

Release Date: February 14, 2020

The ads for The Photograph have been giving off strong “Nicholas Sparks, but with black people” vibes. However, I had a hankering suspicion that it wouldn’t actually be as saccharine as that glossy presentation suggested. First and foremost, the two leads, Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield, are not exactly for taking on such gloopy material. Surely their presence would ensure that things would end up a little more left-field than this genre typically goes. Indeed that has turned out to be the case, but to be fair to the marketing team, this is not an easy movie to advertise. It has a slow-burn meditative spirit (driven along by Robert Glasper’s jazzy piano score) that does not immediately grab you in the way that trailers are meant to in a couple of minutes. But if you simmer in it for a couple hours, your heart might just grow a few sizes.

Michael (Stanfield) is a reporter working on a story that happens to involve recently deceased photographer Christina Eames (Chanté Adams). He then finds himself smitten by Christina’s daughter Mae (Rae), who is working her way through the truth bombs that her mom has left her in a pair of letters, one addressed to Mae and one to Mae’s father. Meanwhile, writer-director Stella Meghie frequently takes us back to Christina’s young adulthood in small-town Louisiana where she is unable to reconcile a possible future with the man that she loves (Y’lan Noel) and her dreams of making it big in New York City. She tends to always choose her professional goals over her loved ones, and in a case of family history rhyming, Mae and Michael find themselves worried that they are going to do the same. That struggle to find the nerve to say what you know is in your heart is deeply felt in The Photograph.

I have noticed a lot of excitement around this movie about the potential to see black love that is not also about trauma on the big screen. And if that is what you are looking for, I suspect that you will be satisfied. The blackness in The Photograph is not meant to represent all blackness, as Michael and Mae’s story is by no means a microcosm of all people of color. They are two people who happen to be black and happen to be falling in love. The details are their own, while also being part of a continuum of their lineage. It is an openhearted, generous story that I think a lot of people are going to be happy to witness.

The Photograph is Recommended If You Like: Beyond the Lights, Love & Basketball, A bottle of wine and a record player on a rainy night

Grade: 4 out of 5 Darkrooms