'I Am Woman' gives Helen Reddy another moment to sing in the sunshine

Helen Reddy might seem so 1970s, but her songI Am Womanbecame a feminist anthem of its time, and serves as the title and centerpiece of a reasonably good movie biography, if one thatperhaps due to the nature of her lifefeels a little like the Hallmark Channel version ofBohemian Rhapsody.

Shot in the singer’s native Australia but set in the US, the film features a winning performance from Tilda Cobham-Hervey as Reddy, with Evan Peters as her bull-in-a-china-shop husband/manager Jeff Wald. Chelsea Cullen, intussen, sings new versions of Reddy’s hits, and just to keep things in the family, there’s a new tune sung by Reddy’s granddaughter, Lily Donat.
For those who don’t know much more about Reddy than the lyrics toI Am Woman,” and perhapsDelta Dawn” en “Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady,” her story is actually pretty inspiring, at least in the early stages. Arriving in New York as a single mom in 1966, she crooned in lounges and scrounged to get by, striking up a friendship with music journalist Lilian Roxon (“Patti Cake$ ‘sDanielle Macdonald) before meeting Wald, who promisedI’ll make you a starand pushed for their move to L.A.
Dismissed by record executives, Reddy’s soothing voice belies a steely determination, as she wonders if the guys in charge everask women what they want to listen to.When stardom finally comes, big money just brings new problems, including Wald’s cocaine habit and strained relationships thanks to mom’s work schedule, including a stretch in Las Vegas.
    Directed by Unjoo Moon, it’s all pretty familiar stuff on theA Star is Bornscale; steeds, Reddy’s drive and ability to overcome the naysayers does convey a feminist message, one made overt as the movie (written by Emma Jensen) charts the frustrating path of the Equal Rights Amendment that paralleled its subject’s career.
    There is a sort of ’70s-TV-movie look to the filmowing to what’s clearly a modest budgetincluding awkward shots of appreciative, rocking-out crowds. Yet that kind of works in concert with the material, including the bad haircuts on record execs and their thinly veiled hidden condescension toward what was once written off aselevator music,” while one frets that the title songsounds angry.
      I Am Womancloses with the inevitable update, reminding viewers that Reddy is still very much with us, offering a chance to celebrate what she accomplished. For those who remember the songs, it’s a nostalgic excuse to sing in the sunshine. And if you’re too young to have heard them back when they charted, think of it as a gentle reminder to go call your mom.
      I Am Womanpremieres in theaters and on digital platforms on Sept. 11.

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