HELEN Reddy is an unusual entertainer to be the focus of a biopic. She's a teetotaller, didn't touch drugs and didn't prematurely die in a plane crash. In fact, the 78-year-old Australian only retired from showbiz in 2017.
However, through her era-defining hit I Am Woman, which became the unofficial anthem of the women's liberation movement, Reddy remains a titan of the music world.
Reddy was the first Australian-born artist to win a Grammy and sold 25 millions records through her easy-listening hits I Am Woman, Delta Dawn and Angie Baby to become known as the "queen of housewife pop".
In the movie I Am Woman, the music is secondary. We get several live performances, but the film is focused on Reddy's unwavering battle for acceptance in the male-dominated music industry and how she became a feminist icon.
The story begins in 1966 when Reddy, played by Tilda Cobham-Hervey (Hotel Mumbai) moves to New York with her three-year-old daughter Traci to sign a promised record deal. A condescending record executive tells her he "can't do anything with a female singer."
It ignites Reddy's fight for equality with the music industry and her husband and manager, Jeff Wald, played by Evan Peters (Dark Phoenix). Parts of the story are enhanced to support I Am Woman's feminist manifesto. This includes linking Reddy more closely to trailblazing ex-pat Australian journalist Lillian Roxon, who famously wrote the first Rock Encyclopedia and died from asthma aged 41 in 1973.
The movie does slip into cliche biopic territory in the second half of the film as Reddy and Wald's marriage collapses due to the latter's cocaine abuse and disastrous business dealings. Greater resolution of those storylines and more emphasis on Reddy's musical legacy would have been appreciated, but as a feminist piece I Am Woman is a powerful statement.