Tell It Like a Woman is a hastily thrown together series of vignettes that play out like a film school final showcase. Despite a few bright points and good casting, the film itself falls flat.
Tell It Like a Woman is a series of seven vignette style stories, all compiled into one film. The film is directed by Catherine Hardwicke, Silvia Carobbio, and Taraji P. Henson. This film garnered most of its attention following its 2023 Oscar nomination for Best Original Song (“Applause”). Which, even if the song itself may be catchy, with Sofia Carson’s buttery pop vocals carrying it well, sets the tone for the rest of the film: nothing is cohesive.
Despite the fact that this film features a well stacked cast, including Jennifer Hudson, Cara Delevigne, and Eva Longoria featured, it feels sloppy. The movie opens with a story of a woman (Jennifer Hudson), who is struggling with addiction while being incarcerated and with how her actions have affected her ability to be a mother. While Jennifer Hudson gives a brilliant performance (though we shouldn’t expect anything less from her), the story never really takes off. We’re never really gripped into the characters, and if anything, the only time we do is at the end, when the story is over and messily transitions to the next story.
From there, it moves at a fast (and yet somehow not fast enough) pace through stories that range from focusing on a homeless schizophrenic woman, to a woman who travels to Italy following the death of her sister (where she learns she’s now responsible for a niece that she did not even know existed), to a story of a woman whose children surprise her with a vacuum she’s always wanted, to a veterinarian who learns that the dog that she’s treating has wounds that are rooted in its owner being abused, to a plastic surgeon whose perspective on life is changed after meeting a transgender woman, to ending with an animated short film that makes social commentary on gender norms.
While some storylines are stronger than others (and some are more watchable than others), the film itself has no cohesion. There’s no easy transitions from story to story, and none of the storylines are connected in the end. Which ultimately makes the film play out like a film school final showcase, just with A-list actors. There’s not even a connecting theme between the films.
Sure, the storyline about the overwhelmed mother who is moved by a kind gesture made by her children is sweet, but following it up with a story of a woman and her dog who are facing domestic violence gives such emotional whiplash. There’s no substantive commentary to be made here. While the title “Tell It Like a Woman” suggests that the storyline is supposed to be rooted in women’s stories, it seems to do nothing more than provide stories that feature women, with nothing more to advance the conversation.
And while “Applause” is a fine song (maybe not Oscar-worthy, but far be it to break Diane Warren’s nomination streak), it doesn’t have anything to do with the film either. It’s hard to even assign it to a particular storyline. It feels completely separate from the film, almost like it could have just been a pop single for Carson. Most unfortunately, it opened the door for Tell It Like a Woman to be nominated for an Oscar.
Tell It Like a Woman may be an Oscar-nominated film to skip. While some storylines are charming and sweet, the lack of cohesion, and the sloppily run through storylines make it a slow watch.
Nominated: Best Original Song (Applause)
Should Have Been Considered: None
Where to Watch: VOD
Lives in NC, where she is on a first name basis with the owners of her favorite pho spot.
Favorite Actress: Angela Bassett