Spanning several years, American Woman follows Sienna Miller’s Deb as she confronts a wide variety of personal and professional concerns – including her ongoing search for her missing daughter, her relationship with Aaron Paul’s Chris, and her efforts at establishing a new career. There’s little doubt that American Woman improves considerably (and steadily) as it progresses, as the early part of the picture, directed by jake Scott and written by Brad Ingelsby, comes off as a fairly standard, almost paint-by-numbers portrait of an irresponsible single mother – with the movie’s heavy emphasis on the central character’s less-than-savory existence certainly perpetuating the familiar vibe (eg an early subplot detailing Deb’s relationship with an abusive jerk is overly familiar and thoroughly tedious). It’s equally clear, however, that the movie benefits substantially from Miller’s stirring and frequently electrifying performance, while the inclusion of a decidedly shocking twist at around the half hour mark injects he proceedings with a much-needed jolt of energy. American Woman, past that point, slowly-but-surely morphs into a seriously engrossing little drama, with the ongoing presence of unexpectedly moving sequences certainly perpetuating the picture’s increasingly compelling feel. The movie’s impressively absorbing final stretch cements its place as a much more accomplished and rewarding endeavor than one might’ve anticipated, and it goes without saying, ultimately, that Miller’s striking turn as the progressively sympathetic protagonist deserves the lion’s share of credit for the film’s success.
***1/2 out of ****