Woman, Thou Art Loosed

on October 01, 2004 by Bridget Byrne
Although it makes no bones about preaching to the choir, "Woman, Thou Art Loosed" has enough force as a searing emotional drama to transcend religious boundaries. This harsh study of the patterns of sexual and emotional abuse that contribute to many female victims turning violent themselves is woven into the conviction that the gospel provides succor, whatever the crime.
The pattern of the storytelling, adapted from pastor and preacher Bishop T. D. Jakes' self-help novel, interlaces his real-life religious message in and out of the (fictional) downfall of Michelle, a young woman raped by her mother's lover. This fractured structure, born of the need to keep Jakes' flamboyant revival hall performance as front and center as the fictional characters, is confusing to the plot. However, just as his powerful energy streams way beyond his pulpit into hopeful hearts and minds, so too does the power of the acting in this film give it true passion, crystallized in director Michael Schultz' steady trust in the impact of his actors' talent. Everyone--even the more briefly glimpsed neighborhood pimps and drug pushers who taunt and terrorize Michelle, narrowing her chances of breaking free from tragedy--seem multi-dimensional. Complex humanity is not laid aside for the sake of any simplistic depictions of good or evil, though at times the dialogue is truly clunky.
Kimberly Elise as death-row inmate Michelle is heartbreaking in her world-weary confusion. Loretta Devine is convincing as her mother, who chooses to stick by her man and remain in denial about what he has done. Clifton Powell is chillingly believable as the abusive lover trying to cover his tracks with false pride. Starring Kimberly Elise, Loretta Devine, Clifton Powell, Debbi Morgan, Michael Boatman and Bishop T.D.Jakes. Directed by Michael Schultz. Written by Stan Foster. Produced by Reuben Cannon. A Magnolia release. Drama. Rated R for violence, sexual content and drug use. Running time: 99 min
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