I Am Woman

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
I Am Woman Movie Poster Image
Helen Reddy bio sings but doesn't roar; drugs, language.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 116 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Believe in yourself. Speak out for your causes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Reddy is a feminist icon who wrote and performed the song that became the anthem for the women's equal rights movement. She and her husband used perseverance and teamwork to succeed.

Violence

A fistfight gets out of control. Aggressive behavior.

Sex

Kissing.

Language

Frequent use of "f--k." Also: "ass," "a--hole," "bulls--t," "douche bag," "hell," and "s--t." 

Consumerism

Once they succeed, Jeff and Helen fill their life with material wealth -- Rolls-Royce, large houses, etc. -- which all collapses under them.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Frequent cocaine use, with negative consequences. Smoking. Mention of marijuana.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that I Am Woman is a biopic about 1970s pop singer Helen Reddy, set against the backdrop of the women's movement. Reddy (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) refuses to accept that there's no audience for her "housewife" music, as a male label executive describes it. Her career ultimately takes off thanks to clear-cut examples of perseverance and teamwork -- for instance, she makes her manager/husband call a record label over and over until the label agrees to let her cut a single. Reddy's husband, Jeff Wald (Evan Peters), curses constantly ("s--t," "f--k," and more), lives large with expensive cars and houses, and snorts cocaine throughout. As Wald's drug addiction intensifies, he becomes more aggressive and out of control, leading to a physical altercation with a group of colleagues that involves a knife. There's also kissing, smoking, and mention of marijuana.

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What's the story?

In 1966, Australian singer Helen Reddy (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) arrives in New York under the false assumption that she has a recording contract. As she and her music manager/husband, Jeff Wald (Evan Peters) struggle to get her a deal, she pens I AM WOMAN, a song that will inspire the women's liberation movement. After years of great success, Helen and Jeff's pairing starts to crumble as they get caught up in a life of Hollywood excess.

Is it any good?

This biopic is a factual dot-to-dot rather than a real exploration, but it's still an encouraging piece of entertainment for young women. Reddy was a young mother trying to succeed alone in a man's world, and while the sexist comments and attitudes she faces in I Am Woman are a drop in the bucket, they're just enough to set the scene for why so many women fought so hard for equal rights.

"Just enough" is actually the best description for this film. It can't decide whether it's emphasizing Reddy's personal life or tracking her career success, so both come across as muted versions of reality. This is music documentarian Unjoo Moon's first scripted feature, and it doesn't give many of Reddy's substantial accomplishments much, if any, attention (for example, there's no mention of her starring in Pete's Dragon!). Her marriage to music manager Wald, a Hollywood hothead who became the industry's poster child for the perils of cocaine use, is depicted as far too forgiving. And for all the movie tries to say about Reddy's role in propelling women's liberation, there's no elation in the moment that she becomes liberated from her controlling husband, nor is there acknowledgement of the irony that, once she did become liberated, that man silenced her voice. I Am Woman is a serviceable retelling of Reddy's life, and yet it doesn't do enough service for the icon that she is.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how I Am Woman portrays smoking and drug use. Did people know the consequences of tobacco and cocaine use at the time? Does the film glamorize substance use?

  • How did Helen and Jeff use teamwork so that they both succeeded in their career aspirations? How did the teamwork fall apart?

  • What do you know about the women's movement of the 1960s and '70s? What were feminists fighting for? What did being "a feminist" mean? Does it still mean the same thing?

Movie details

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