The intention of period piece is to understand the impact on its characters and their reaction to stimuli. In this way, “I’m Your Woman” which stars Rachel Brosnahan of “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” fame, is an interesting move. It is a film from a first time female director and there is a sense of intention but one where the lead character basks almost in her ignorance until she is confronted not to. Like Karen in “Goodfellas” but much less worldly, Jeane’s life seem stilted but comfortable. Her husband loves her yet she knows that he is a criminal. We are never given a full view of what he is up to but by placing Jean at the center and adding a baby to the mix, it becomes an interesting mix of genres. The only issue is that at times it doesn’t know what it wants to be. Like “the Kitchen”, there are stylistic flourishes at different points in the film that are borderline brilliant but aren’t thoroughly consistent. Brosnahan works herself different in the role on purpose to show the difference in a character from “Maisel”. Jean doesn’t talk fast. She pointedly asks question but rarely and with trepidation. She is not brazen and she is not methodical but her instincts get better. She is not a person used to taking care of herself. She ends up embroiled with another person who worked with her husband who protects her and yet more goes on below the surface. His wife shows up which adds another layer. But it is when Jean needs to peel back the blinders that the film starts to work. One specific scene through a hallway back and forth from a specific POV gives the harrowing feeling and being in the 70s you can guess the texture of the club. That said, even though Amazon is known for having the money to license music, the filmmaker decided to use two very specific Aretha Franklin songs and there is one soul instrumental where one can’t tell if it was written today or then. What it does do is completely set the pace at one point which is where the movie gets part of its flow. Director Julie Hart also has enough confidence to let the camera sit on her actors, especially Brosnahan. Though the performance is not absolutely out of the park, it is effective and nuanced though at times you can see the cracks and the effort being made. The blonde hair and 70s era outfits completely the idea of transformation in Brosnahan. This is not “Fargo” but it does reflect the mid-range pictures that used to be commonplace in Hollywood. And the streamers know that can be its bread and butter. Pittsburgh too takes a great role in the film creating that 70s angle and vibe without saying “Here I am!” That said as “I’m Your Woman” moves towards its conclusion, it does take risks creating a brutal but riveting sequence at the end that although budgetarily constrained does relate a grittiness. The title itself is an odd one as it means different things but doesn’t truly explain the intent of the film. “I’m your Woman” though seems to know what it is and doesn’t shy away from its identity.
By Tim Wassberg
Werner Herzog always has an interesting way of looking at things where it is never one thing but perhaps another. After his stunt on “The Mandalorian”, perhaps his stint into alien worlds provided a slightly different perspective. While “Fireball: Visitors From Other Worlds” in many ways is straightforward, its unconventional narrator gives the ideas its push. Apple backed this film which is equal parts at times indulgence versus metaphysical voyage with an idea of how existential it really could be. Herzog examines the idea of organisms and the intermingling of history and art. It is not done in an obtuse way but rather in a roundabout way of examining the human spirit. Herzog sees people in a different way. It is hard to say if he is operating at times as we only see him jump in once (yet his voice narrates the entire process and was written by him so the voice is inherently of that bent). The perspective goes away from norms. His camera lingers on the subjects not asking for quotes most of the time but taking in their faces. That says so much more than any of the talking heads that interact with Clive Oppenheimer (who co-directed). Oppenheimer is himself a documentary filmmaker and volcanologist who worked with Herzog on the different “Volcanos” (so they obviously get along). Oppenheimer has less presence than perhaps some of his interview subjects whom Herzog perhaps stays on a bit too long. It is not about what they are saying per se though the details are there. It is about how they are acting when it is being said. There are textures of obsessive compulsive elements in many of the subjects or just a jitteriness like a professor in India who sits in the belly of a crater. Some just can’t stop moving either out of nature of excitement. One of the more interesting is a Jesuit Brother that works for The Vatican and is also a planetary scientist. His discussion of the paradox of science and God is not contradictory per se and yet explains the right balance. Herzog seems to see these elements and adds to the slight undercurrent of beautiful madness. The ending sequence takes this to a visual extreme but examines and reamplifies the nature of the meteors and the history they both create and tell.
By Tim Wassberg
The idea of identity especially in the context of what love is defined as is an unusual quandary for some people depending what the end goal is. For the highly sensitive like Jeanne, the girl at the center of the would-be fable “Jumbo”, it becomes about the sheer act of feeling. The character is extremely introverted either because of any number of traits, though it is never defined, nor does it need to be. She is her own unique person and yet she does have a weirdness about her. That is not to be denied. Like “Ladybird” but a little more ethereal and off-the-rails, Jeanne falls in love with a piece of machinery. It may sound like a texture of body modification but the way it is done is both sweet and off-putting (as it is supposed to be). Some of the sequences that are extremely stylized involving white and oil are quite dynamic and daring even in a film as quiet as this. Some of the best interludes involve the dance and lights of two disparate creatures like a reverse “Close Encounters”. While it is inherently post-modern, the film does bring back some of those technologically-awed pieces from the 80s like a weird mixture of “Short Circuit” and “Starman” if you will. Ultimately the behavior and the conflict is born out of what society believes something needs to be. Beyond the Jumbo love interest, it is the push-and-pull of Jeanne’s mother (which is dictated by her own failed relationships and the idea of what love should be) that provides the tension in the film hile still being undeniably quirky. Noemlie Merlant (who plays Jeanne) has a delicateness about her almost like a French Emma Watson. She is light on her feet and yet with a weight of purpose while still being awkward. It is that offset beauty both inwardly and outwardly that brings the finality to its fruition. The idea of not of solution but acceptance whatever the reason might be.
By Tim Wassberg