American Woman is the real Dark Phoenix. Not in the sense of Marvel Comic character, but as an alcoholic, philandering, deeply-flawed female, who despite the odds, seems to rise from the ashes. The movie follows 32 year old Debra through the next fifteen-plus years of her troubled life. Don’t expect glitter and happy-endings; you get grit and realism. American Woman has a dialogue that feels like the writer lived it. As you see above, Sienna Miller is a force. I give this movie 4 Gavels and it receives an 80% Rotten Tomatoes rating with a 79% Audience score.
Debra lives with her teenage daughter and infant grandson, with little signs of maturity. When the young girl fails to return home from a date, Debra faces the worst fear imaginable. As the years go by, she must rely on an abusive partner for support and to buy time to get an education. Later, she is urged to date by her sister which results in a whirlwind romance. Can she trust her instincts? Is she strong enough to make her own way?
Can you think of one memorable role for Sienna Miller? That now changes with this performance as Debra. Seemingly always the fashion-model type, the blue-collar transition is shocking. Christina Hendricks, as her sister, enables Debra’s lifestyle while criticizing her through love and concern. Will Sasso is her brother-in-law, a big, hulking protector with a similarly huge heart.
I would never send you to the Esquire Theatre to see this drama. The tenor is too gloomy; the resolution too unfulfilling. Debra seems to survive her life, rather than live it. And, I think, that is the point. As American Woman ends, she is able to move on. The viewer only sees the rough edges, but believes better times must be ahead. So, some night you are in the mood for something a little heavier with an award-worthy performance, search this one out.