By Leah Greenblatt
October 16, 2020 at 01:30 AM EDT
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Credit: Amazon Studios

If wallpaper and polyester were any metric to judge a movie by, I'm Your Woman could have been a masterpiece. There's an intriguing story somewhere beneath the extremely groovy visual mood of filmmaker Julia Hart's 1970s-set crime drama (which premiered Thursday at AFI Fest and arrives on Amazon Prime Dec. 11), but one she never quite finds in its loose, fragmentary two-hour runtime.

Rachel Brosnahan, leaving her Mrs. Maisel moxie far behind, stars as Jean, the bored, decorative wife of a handsome hustler named Eddie (Bill Heck). She smokes, she stares out at her suburban lawn, she burns the breakfast bacon. She also admits, in a coolly detached voice-over, that she and Eddie tried to have children but can't.

So when he turns up one day with an infant in his arms, she assumes at first that it must be a bad joke. "It's all worked out," he replies casually. "He's our baby." She has other questions, naturally — and so do we, though it's not long before Eddie is gone in the night, and there's a cohort of his at the door telling her to take the kid and a tote bag full of cash and get as far away as she can.

Soon enough there's another man, a quiet, kind-eyed associate of Eddie's named Cal (played by the British-Nigerian actor Arinzé Kene), on hand to help her find all the ways she can to disappear. What he won't (or can't) do is tell her why or where or even for how long. Some answers will eventually, haphazardly come. But Hart — a gifted director of micro-budget indies like last year's Fast Color and 2016's Miss Stevens — too often forfeits clarity for style in a script (co-penned with her husband, writer-producer Jordan Horowitz) that leaves strange gaps and tonal leaps where a coherent plot should be.

Brosnahan gamely feathers her hair and falls down the movie's rabbit hole, ricocheting from sad to mad to catatonic as she struggles to juggle an infant who is still essentially a tiny stranger with a new, fugitive life that makes even less sense to her. And the look of it all, from the candy-pink font of the opening credits to the flawlessly curated kitsch of the set design, plays like a Me Decade dream. Without a narrative through-line to pull those threads together, though — What exactly did Eddie do? Why are they in so much trouble? Where did he get that baby? — or a cohesive sense of who Jean is behind the sulks and panics and cigarettes, Woman feels lost, a mislaid exercise in style. C

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