“I Am Woman,” a nice, but disappointingly trite biopic of the singer Helen Reddy, has a flatness that’s troublesome to ascribe to anyone aspect. As Reddy, Tilda Cobham-Hervey has heat and gumption; the Nineteen Sixties-80s manufacturing design is impeccable; and the cinematography, by the celebrated Dion Beebe (the companion of the director, Unjoo Moon), is richly textured.
Yet there’s a rote high quality to Emma Jensen’s ultraconventional script, a ticking-off of obstacles and triumphs that feels shallow and rushed. In quick order, we see Reddy arrive from Australia in 1966 together with her small daughter, nab a New York City house, undergo rejection from file corporations and befriend the noted music journalist Lillian Roxon (Danielle Macdonald).
The introduction of the bold younger expertise agent, Jeff Wald (Evan Peters), instantly muddies the film’s focus. Communicating virtually fully in platitudes, he turns into Reddy’s husband (“You make me want to be better”) and supervisor (“I’ll make you a star”). A transfer to Los Angeles, the place the 1972 single of the title will propel Reddy’s rise and be adopted as an unofficial theme music of the ladies’s motion, solely renders Reddy’s character extra amorphous. In public, she’s a fearless warrior in opposition to the punitive sexism of the time; in non-public, she meekly tolerates her husband’s verbal abuse and uncontrolled cocaine behavior.
Declining to deal with this contradiction, Moon additionally ignores the weird childhood and shocking beliefs described in Reddy’s 2006 memoir, by no means thoughts her inventive course of. (Why did she cease writing and file solely covers?) Without these insights, what stays is much less the impression of a feminist musician than of an absent mom, neglectful good friend and unassertive spouse. And that’s nothing to roar about.