2019 TIFF Movie Review: I AM WOMAN (Australia 2019)

I Am Woman Poster
The story of 1970s musician and activist Helen Reddy.

Director:

Unjoo Moon

Writer:

Emma Jensen

I AM WOMAN is the famous female anthem that stands for woman’s rights and also Australian singer Helen Reddy’s most popular hit.  Moon’s film is part biopic part feminist movement set in NYC of 1966.  

It traces the difficult climb to fame of the talented singer at a time when women were fighting for their rights of equal pay, voice and employment.  Tilda Cobham-Hervey plays the 24-year old singer who starts making headway with the fiercely ambitious Jeff Wald (Evan Peters) who sweeps Helen off her feet and rapidly becomes both her husband and her manager.  

 Jeff’s dogged insistence ensures that Helen’s golden voice gets heard.  Every famous person has his or her downfall and Reddy’s takes the form of her coke snorting husband.  Wald is an easy target since the film promotes women and puts down men.  The film also stereotypes coke users and Wall is portrayed as a totally bad husband with no redeeming qualities.  

The film plays to the popular audience with lots of her popular hots (Delta Dawn, Angie Baby, I Don’t Know How to Love Him) and offers little new insight on the female movement.  Reddy can do no fault in the entire film.

Trailer: (unavailable)

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Film Review: AMERICAN ANIMALS (UK 2018) ***

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American Animals Poster
Trailer

Four young men mistake their lives for a movie and attempt one of the most audacious heists in U.S. history.

Director:

Bart Layton

Writer:

Bart Layton

 

Spencer Reinhard (Barry Keoghan), Warren Lipka (Evan Peters), Eric Borsuk (Jared Abrahamson) and Chas Allen (Blake Jenner) are four friends who live an ordinary existence in Kentucky.   They plan, from watching old crime movies, to to steal the rarest and most valuable books from the university’s library that are worth $12 million or so.   The film unfolds, documentary style with the real men (other actors) re-telling the stories in flashback.  Writer/director Bart Layton, redoes the similar style of his hit 2012 documentary THE IMPOSTER which had won him a BAFTA Award.

“We must suppose that AMERICAN ANIMALS  – slowly migrated by successive generations from the outer world to the deeper and deeper recesses of the Kentucky caves.”  These words inform the audience right at the start of the story.

One can tell from the film’s start AMERICAN ANIMALS is not going to be the ordinary run-of-the-mill heist film.  It begins with the word “Based not on a True Story” followed by the fading out of the words followed by the word ‘not’ faded out.  Which implies that this fictional tale cold very be a true one.  Or a true tale that could be fiction.

“There was nothing in that background that would suggest something like that might happen.  They were pretty good kids.”  says the teacher at the start of the film, as a teen puts up blue make-up around his eyes, for a disguise to commit a heist.

There is a segment in the film when the director demonstrates a textbook example on how to life the spirit of an audience.  This includes arousing music, dancing and other scenes involving throwing caution to the wind.

Well written with lots of movie references, the film’s best line after they discover the enormous value of their loot: “We need  a bigger boat.”   Another involves Eddie trying to convince his friend to decide whether to be in or out of the venture without disclosing any details of the it: “This is your red or blue pill moment.”   The RESERVOIR DOGS nod is also surprisingly funny.  Another well-written set-up involves Eddie being bright into the Dean’s office for a pep talk which turns around once Eddie turns the tables on the talk.

As one character, the professor talks about the robbers in his classroom, the chalk scribblings on the board in the background make intriguing details that might give some additional insight into the film.  These are the details and little nuances that make AMERICAN ANIMALS stand out from the many heist films.  Needless to say, the film is often smart, funny and fresh.

Barry Keoghan plays Spencer, one of the robbers.  Keoghan was discovered by director Yorgos Lanthimos in THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER and was last seen in Christopher Nolan’s DUNKIRK.  He has that special look of a disturbed youth.  I would see any film Keoghan is in, he being one of the brightest new presence in films.  Actor Udo Kier who is fond of playing odd characters has a cameo as a ‘fence’, the person who guys valuable questionable goods.

AMERICAN ANIMALS is funny, fresh, smart and original while still playing homage to classic films.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKvPVvy2Kn8

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