I Am Woman Review – Helen Reddy Biopic Hits all the Right Notes

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I Am Woman, from Quiver Distribution, presents the story of international recording artist, Helen Reddy, her manager husband, Jeff Wald, and their rise from the dingy Manhattan hotel to the Beverly Hills mansion, and the dramatic, shocking, fall.

Directed by Unjoon Moon, I Am Woman stars Tilda Cobham-Hervey as Helen Reddy, Even Peters as her manager husband, Jeff Wald, Danielle MacDonald as Rock Journalist Lillian Roxan and Chris Parnell, as Capitol Records honcho Artie Mogull along with Molly Broadstock, Jordon Raskopoulous, and Matty Cardarople.

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The film begins in 1966, Helen Reddy, the winner of a signing contest in Australia arrives in New York City, with her three-year old daughter, Traci, played by Coco Greenstone, to record the album promised as art of the prize package.

Unfortunately, boy bands are all the rage as the Mercury record exec explains, the contract is cancelled. Alone, with limited finances, half a world away from home, she calls one person whom she felt she could connect, Lillian Roxan, played by Danielle MacDonald, a pioneering rock and roll journalist who understands the soul of music before the industry understood. The two became fast friends.

With one friend, New York city became less cold, harsh, and uninviting. It was through Lillian, and one of her outrageous parties, that Jeff Wald, an up and coming William Morris agent shows up and while it may not have been love at first sight it was definitely an interesting start. Soon, and after he lost his William Morris gig for selling pot in the mail room, he convinced Helen to let him manage her career.

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And soon it was off to LA and life in Laurel Canyon in the 1970s. Unfortunately, life in LA for Helen was boring. Signing on to manage the housekeeping was not what she had envisioned. A letter from Lillian and a clip of her article on the Equal Rights Amendment, equality, and 25,000 women marching in Manhattan charged her and she had enough.

This is when we meet head of Capitol records, Artie Mogull, played by Chris Parnell. After being told "no one in this town wants you, Helen," by her husband/manager she corners him and refuses to let him leave the room. After what appears to be five hours of attempting to speak with Artie, for the second time, as he turned him down on the first call, Jeff's persistence finally pays off and Artie agrees to allow Helen to record a single.

Finally, five years after she arrived in New York City, her dreams are on the verge of reality. Lillian Roxon's influence and friendship carried her through the lull in the canyon and her determined spirit to break through the barriers was contagious.

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Roxon, who was working on the first encyclopedia of rock and roll, was somewhat more aggressive in explaining that the game had changed. Helen had become the talent, marketable and on her way to the "Queen of Housewife Rock." The lyrics Capitol sent to her to jump start the writing process were so hindering that after Roxon returned to New York, her presence became the channeling force behind the lyrics to Reddy's breakthrough hit, "I Am Woman."

With Helen topping the charts, the paranoia of "friendships" and the precarious balancing act performed by the high-flying acts, she visits Lillian while in New York. Forgetting to leave celebrity at the door, Helen questions her confidence and the two, both stubborn, each expecting the other to reassure the other of their friendship and neither did.

It is at this point the film shifts into the hidden, underside of celebrity.

I Am Woman, a multi-faceted film, presents a candid portrayal of the days, times, seasons, and events, that make up the life of Helen Reddy, the author of the unofficial anthem for the women's movement.

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It celebrates the high points and delves deep into the lowest points of her life, her husband's cocaine addiction, the poor financial investments, her losses, and decision to leave the life and all its trappings behind.

Unjoon Moon, in her feature debut, doesn't miss a beat. She captures the highly sexually charged sweetie, baby, cookie, honey atmosphere as well as the supercharged, cocaine fueled, wild lifestyle of life in the entertainment industry.

An excellent story driven biopic, I Am Women skillfully weaves Reddy's chart-topping singles throughout, as she moves from lounge act to international superstar. The ensemble cast give powerful, commanding, performances and I Am Women delivers candid insights into the star maker machine life of celebrity.

I Am Woman opens everywhere, via streaming or theater, Friday, September 11, 2020. See it.

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