American Woman is one of those releases that left me conflicted after seeing it. On the one hand, Sienna Miller’s performance as Debra was sensational. It’s the type of performance which gains the attention of awards voters and redefines careers. In short, Miller was born to play this role, and she exceeds even the loftiest of expectations. On the other hand, I’m not a massive fan of the narrative that Brad Ingelsby crafted. In the first act of the film, I was immediately hooked by the idea of a young mother’s teenager daughter, possibly facing peril. Those moments were heightened with the idea that her daughter’s son was so small and now was likely without her mom. Instead, this film shifted the focus towards a collection of horrific men she dealt with over eleven years while waiting for closure.
Now don’t get me wrong, seeing her overcome all of these horrific instances (being beaten, belittled, and infidelity) allowed Miller to explore the depth of Debra which was likely absent from the actual script. However, by paying so much attention to that dynamic afforded other characters in the film, no chance to develop, thus causing them to come off as one dimensional. Christina Hendricks plays Katherine (Debra’s sister) and an essential figure in her life, but you wouldn’t know that based on this narrative. She’s written as more of a secondary character than a person who carries such emotional baggage based on their shared childhood.
Overall, American Woman is quite deceptive. There’s a difference between the movie it is and the one it wants to be. Yes, the film is launched by the abduction, but it is more about being lost as she struggles to find out who she truly is. It’s as if the loss of her daughter is secondary in the film, in reality, it should have been front and center throughout.