I Am Woman (15)
I Am Woman (15)
Director: Unjoo Moon
Runtime: 116 minutes
Cast: Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Danielle Macdonald, Evan Peters, Matty Cardarople, Rita Rani Ahuja, Molly Broadstock, Chris Parnell, Chelsea Cullen (as the singing voice of Helen Helen Reddy) Synopsis: I AM WOMAN is the story of Helen Reddy, who in 1966 landed in New York with her three-year-old daughter, a suitcase and $230 in her pocket. Within weeks she was broke. Within months she was in love. Within five years she was one of the biggest superstars of her time, and an icon of the 1970s feminist movement, who wrote a song which galvanised a generation of women to fight for change.
Australian Director Unjoo Moon [The Zen of Bennett (2012), a documentary on singer Tony Bennett] tells the inspiring story of singer Helen Reddy, writer and singer of ‘I Am Woman’, the song which became the anthem for the women’s movement in the 1970s. The film is a story of fearless ambition and passion, of a woman who smashed through the patriarchal norms of her time to become the international singing superstar she always dreamed of being.
The film opens with the 24 year old Reddy [Tilda Cobham-Hervey – Hotel Mumbai (2018), 52 Tuesdays (2013), One Eyed Girl (2013)] arriving in New York in 1966 from Australia with her three-year-old daughter, a suitcase and just US$230. Within five years she had become one of the biggest superstars of her time, with eight number one US singles, her own hourly TV show and the status of an icon of the 1970s feminist movement, which adopted her power anthem. The film follows her troubled relationships – with friend Roxon [Danielle Macdonald – Patti Cake$ (2017), Dumplin’ (2018), Bird Box (2018), Skin (2018), Paradise Hills (2019)] author of the influential Lillian Roxon’s Rock Encyclopedia, and with husband/manager Jeff Wald [Evan Peters – American Horror Story (TV 2011-), Quicksilver in X-Men franchise (2016-2019)] who also managed such artists as Sylvester Stallone, Donna Summer, Deep Purple and Tiny Tim.
I Am Woman follows the standard biopic formula, with Tilda Cobham-Hervey’s central performance keeping this affectionate tribute watchable.
As a single-mother leaving her old life in Australia to seek stardom in New York, Helen is devastated to find that the industry does not take her seriously. She had been told she had won a recording contract, but the record company promptly dashes her hopes by telling her that they have enough female stars and suggesting she has fun in New York before returning home. Helen, without a visa, decides to stay in New York anyway and pursue a singing career, struggling to make ends meet and provide for her daughter. There she befriends legendary rock journalist Lillian Roxon, who becomes her closest confident. Lillian inspires her to write and sing the iconic song ‘I Am Woman’ which becomes the anthem for the second wave feminist movement and galvanises a generation of women to fight for change. She also meets Jeff Wald, a young aspiring talent manager who becomes her agent and husband. Jeff helps her get to the top, but he also suffers from drug addiction, which gradually turns their relationship toxic.
Every social movement has its definitive song, and feminism got its anthem in 1972, when the Australian singer Helen Reddy released the single ‘I Am Woman’. Reaching No .1 in the US and selling 1m copies there, it also established Reddy, who has died aged 78, as one of the top-selling female vocalists. Accepting the 1973 Grammy award in the best female pop vocal category, Reddy rubbed decade salt into the wound by saying: “I would like to thank God, because she makes everything possible.”
- Helen Maxine Reddy, singer, born 25 October 1941; died 29 September 2020
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Images courtesy of Vertigo Releasing
Helen Reddy in California last year. Photograph: John Sciulli/Getty Images