'I Am Woman' Review: Helen Reddy biopic is sweet and pleasant but fails to inspire with its predictable plot
Making biopics can be a rather tricky business. Back in 2018, when 'Bohemian Rhapsody', the biopic of Freddie Mercury, hit the screens, it was a roaring success but was met with mixed to negative reviews as it seemed to be a choppy show that sliced through Mercury's life, leaving us with bare bones. For sure, the defining moments of his life were there and we all tapped our feet to 'We Will Rock You' and 'Bohemian Rhapsody' in the theatres, but at the end of the film, we couldn't help but feel that we deserved a more nuanced outlook on one of the most historic musicians till date.
The same feeling of wanting more comes with 'I Am Woman', a sweet and trite Helen Reddy biopic, that checks all the boxes dutifully, but still skims through her life without ever delving into the complexities of it. The format is the same: ups and downs, the fight against odds in a world that doesn't listen, and a man who grows jealous of his wife. But those who have understood the profound influence of Reddy's music in a rigid time, know that this isn't just it. Reddy's song 'I Am Woman' became the feminist anthem, and the film could have been a timely celebration of this. We are in 2020, and yet, women are still putting up an exhaustive fight against patriarchal institutions. 'I am Woman' could have been a stronger reverberation of this — it could have roared, but instead, it emerged as a meek little meow.
The film will be remembered as just another one of the run-of-the-mill biopics that could have made a difference, but didn't. It follows Helen in 1966, with her young daughter, Traci, as she tries to pursue her dreams in a world of mansplainers, including her own husband. Despite her troubled personal life, she writes the song of women raising their voice, hoping to imbibe the same strength and energy. Feminism is her power, but it becomes business for her husband and manager, Jeff (Evan Peters). It's every bit as predictable as you can imagine, but with some show-stealing moments such as when she finally sings the song we've been waiting for.
There are no complaints about the actors. Tilda Cobham-Hervey brings warmth to Helen Reddy, a woman who in public, is relentless in her fight against sexism, but yet in private, has to contend with her husband's abusive and toxic behaviour. Sometimes it's just easier to fight the world, rather than the ones you love. 'I am Woman' is a pleasant biopic, that doesn't quite leave you as inspired as you would wish to be. Nevertheless, it makes for a comfortable watch.