With startling economy, Hart and Horowitz trickle details about Jean’s life into the first act. There’s something about a baby she was supposed to have with her husband Eddie, who seems to be gone a lot to dubious whereabouts. Jean is not much of a cook—she can barely handle frying a couple of eggs. She puts a premium on her appearance and grooms herself to the nines as her perfect long blonde hair suggests. She isn’t used to taking care of things on her own and doesn’t seem to know a whole lot about Eddie’s shady line of work. Is he a killer? Ignorance is bliss. She doesn’t even question it when Eddie turns up with a baby he calls Harry one day, completely out of the blue. Jean decides to mother him, no questions asked. But she gets tossed into the snake pit one day when a group of strangers barge into her home in a nondescript city. “Where is Eddie,” she asks the men she doesn’t recognize. Soon, she finds herself on the road to a safe house somewhere with Harry and Cal (a magnetic Arinzé Kene), whose job is to protect her.
Hart is skillful when it comes to crafting tense scenarios in languid ’70s settings and cat-and-mouse chases. She harnesses Brosnahan’s vulnerability to startling effect in one of the film’s finest scenes, involving a friendly neighbor of the safe house (Marceline Hugot) who might or might not be in on a ploy to capture and kill Jean. Similarly, she uses the on-screen chemistry between Brosnahan and Kene powerfully, especially when the duo gets stopped by a white cop and the intimidated pair have to pretend like they are a couple. Hart’s subtle (and thankfully non-didactic) exploration of racism in America doesn’t stop there. Once Cal’s family enters the picture—his no-nonsense wife Teri (Marsha Stephanie Blake, the film’s secret weapon), son Paul (De’Mauri Parks) and kindly dad Art (Frankie Faison)—Jean increasingly becomes more aware of her privileges as a white woman. No matter how difficult she thought she’s had it, an eye-opening conversation with Teri illustrates the currencies she’s unfairly got only because of her race.
A slow burn, sometimes to a fault, “I’m Your Woman” proudly revives a type of old-fashioned cinema with something new to say. Along the way, it also gives ample room to Brosnahan to become someone completely different than Mrs. Maisel—a helpless, abandoned woman at first, who gradually grows into her maternal instincts and feminine muscles, learning how to survive out in the brutal world on her own terms.
In theaters now, on Amazon Prime tomorrow, December 11th.