Thursday, April 12, 2012

"Woman Thou Art Loosed" Stirring, Powerful

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 40 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

Woman Thou Art Loosed (2004)
Running time: 99 minutes (1 hour, 39 minutes)
MPAA – R for violence, sexual content, and drug use
DIRECTOR: Michael Schultz
WRITER: Stan Foster (from the novel by T.D. Jakes)
PRODUCER: Reuben Cannon
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Reinhart “Rayteam” Peschke
EDITOR: Billy Fox
Black Reel Award winner


Starring: Kimberly Elise, Loretta Devine, Debbi Morgan, Michael Boatman, Clifton Powell, Idalis DeLeon, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Sean Blackmore, Jordan Moseley, Philip Daniel Bolden, Destiny Edmond, and Ricky Harris

The subject of this movie review is Woman Thou Art Loosed, a 2004 religiously-themed drama that is directed by famed African-American filmmaker, Michael Schultz. The film is an adaptation of the 1994 self-help book of the same name.

Woman Thou Art Loosed, adapted from Bishop T.D. Jakes best-selling self-help book for women, begins with Michelle Jordan (Kimberly Elise) committing a murder at a revival. Later, Bishop T.D. Jakes (playing himself) visits Michelle on death row. Told through flashbacks, we then see Michelle, just released from prison and determined not to return to her self-destructive life of drugs, stripping, and prostitution, struggle with the demons of her past, including being molested by her mother Cassey’s (Loretta Devine) boyfriend, Reggie (Clifton Powell). At the encouragement of Twana (Debbi Morgan), a family friend, Michelle begins attending Bishop Jakes’ three-day revival, the scene of Michelle’s ultimate tragedy. Can Bishop Jakes help Michelle to accept the healing power of Jesus’ love?

Woman Thou Art Loosed is a beautiful and spiritually engaging film. What it lacks in refinement and technique, it makes up for with religious fervor. Directed by Michael Shultz (Cooley High and Car Wash among others), who was probably the only black film director to consistently direct movies during the 1970’s and 80’s, the film is mostly disjointed for the first half of its running time. Actually, the film is quite hard to follow for the first 20 minutes or so, but then the narrative seems to miraculously come together and flows smoothly the rest of the way. The tragedy of the film is that the script, which tells a very good and compelling story, is short of characterization and character development. Rich characters fill this story, but we only get a taste of them, just enough to irritate because the story doesn’t give more.

What makes this clunky movie soar is Kimberly Elise’s brilliant and searing portrayal of Michelle, young woman who seemingly can’t stop making bad decisions once her innocence is destroyed when she is a child. Ms. Elise has a magnetic screen presence and her performance as a young woman with trials and tribulations is much truer than Oscar winner Hilary Swank’s tepid routine as a trailer trash boxer in Million Dollar Baby. Also stirring is the ministry and preaching of Bishop Jakes.

Though there are moments in the film when the revival seems a bit over the top, 80 percent of the time, it is awe-inspiring and stirs the soul and awakens the intellect. Bishop Jakes’ message of hope and Ms. Elise’s performance, as well as the other actors who give excellent supporting performances in spite of a limp script, make this a fine religious drama. What it lacks as art, Woman Thou Art Loosed makes up for with spirit and hope.

7 of 10

2005 Black Reel Awards: 2 wins: “Best Actress, Independent Film” (Kimberly Elise) and “Best Director, Independent Film” (Michael Schultz); 2 nominations: “Best Actor, Independent Film” (Clifton Powell) and “Best Independent Film” (Reuben Cannon)

2005 Image Awards: 1 win: “Outstanding Independent or Foreign Film;” 2 nominees: “Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture” (Kimberly Elise) and “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture” (Loretta Devine)

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