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Film Of The Week Reddy-made feminist hero

MARIA DUARTE sees an engrossing biopic of the Australian singer who never gave up fighting sexism in the music industry

I Am Woman (15)
Directed by Unjoo Moon

“I AM Woman. Hear my roar,” has been the unofficial anthem of the women's movement ever since the 1970s and now the inspirational story of Helen Reddy, the Australian singer who co-wrote and sang it, is told in this compelling and rousing biopic.

It follows the rise of Reddy (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) from jobbing singer to global star and feminist icon with the help of her husband and manager, Jeff Wald (Evan Peters).

The film begins with the single mother's arrival in New York in 1966, with her three-year-old daughter in tow, to take up a record deal which the company then backed out of claiming “male groups [like the Beatles] are all the rage now.” Nobody was interested in female artists and it was her first taste of sexism in the US.

Directed by Unjoo Moon from a screenplay by Emma Jensen, I Am Woman is a straightforward biopic with few surprises. But it is elevated by Cobham-Hervey's virtuoso performance as Reddy, who she plays from her early-20s to her late-40s, while Peters captures the charm and charisma of Wald and his increasing violent outbursts and volatility due to his growing dependency on drugs.

You can hear Reddy's stunning original recordings throughout the film along with additional tracks by Australian singer Chelsea Cullen. But there is an exquisite and goosebumps moment when Reddy's real life granddaughter, Lily Donat, appears as a nightclub singer performing Revolution, a homage to Reddy's own song and its continuing impact on generations of women.

The constant sexism and discrimination Reddy faced and battled against, both in the music industry and in her marriage, features prominently. The film also also explores her unwavering friendship with fellow trailblazing Aussie music journalist Lilian Roxon (a phenomenal Danielle Macdonald), later hailed as“the mother of rock.”

I Am Woman has a timeless quality and the issues it raises of sexual equality and women's fight for equal pay are sadly still relevant today with the proposed Equal Rights Amendment, blocked back in the 1970s, yet to be passed.

But the film does give the accomplished Reddy the recognition that she deserves as one of the most successful singers of her time and a feminist hero.

 

 

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