THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW ½
2021, R, 101 mins.
Amy Adams as Anna Fox / Gary Oldman as Alistair Russell / Julianne Moore as Jane Russell / Anthony Mackie as Ed Fox / Brian Tyree Henry as Detective Little / Jennifer Jason Leigh as Jane Russell / Fred Hechinger as Ethan / Wyatt Russell as DavidDirected by Joe Wright / Written by Tracy Letts, based on the novel by A.J. Finn
The new Netflix psychological thriller THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW is proof positive that having an acclaimed and highly competent director at the helm alongside a relative smorgasbord of Oscar nominated and winning actors can still produce a stunningly wrongheaded final end product.
contains a fairly intriguing premise (a chronic agoraphobic suffering
child psychologist that spends all of her waking moments inside thinks she
witnesses a murder next door) that will have many among you thinking that
it bares many obvious similarities to Alfred Hitchcock's REAR WINDOW.
Adapted from the mystery novel of the same name by A.J. Finn, THE
WOMAN IN THE WINDOW becomes so muddled, so uninspired, and so illogically
scripted the longer it progresses that you're left wondering why any of
these highly talented and sought after people behind the scenes saw the
value in the project. The
movie is gorgeously shot, to be sure, but that just masks its ultimately
lackluster and overwrought inner shell.
The sufferer in
question is Anna Fox (Amy Adams), who was once a promising psychologist in
her field, but because of a past trauma (that the film ultimately unveils
later on), she has become so paralyzed with a fear of venturing outside of
her Manhattan home that she can't leave it...like...ever.
Complicating her current mental illness is the fact that she's
downing most of her meds with alcohol, which rarely provides for safe
outcomes. She tries as she
can to make the most out her days secluded inside by watching old classic
movies (some of which are, yes, from Hitchcock) and by talking to her
ex-husband (an unseen Anthony Mackie) and daughter (Mariah Bozeman) on the
phone. She also gets
semi-frequent visits by her own therapist (Tracy Letts, who also adapts
the screenplay here) and her basement dwelling tenant in David (Wyatt
Russell), who knows that his landlord is a few fries short of a Happy
Meal, but nevertheless tends to himself and tries to keep his distance.
forever for Anna with the arrival of a new family moving in across the
street in the Russells, and based on most casual observances appear to be
a clan on the verge of ruin. There's the control freak husband, Alistair (Gary Oldman),
his emotionally out-there wife in Jane (Julianne Moore), and their
painfully awkward minded teenage son Ethan (Fred Hechinger).
Anna is befriended one night by Jane, who comes over to help Anna
deal with some unruly trick or treaters on Halloween, but something just
seems...off...about this woman from the get-go.
What really seems off is when Anna is convinced that she has
witnessed the anger-induced Alistair murder Jane in cold blood, which
prompts her to call the authorities.
When Detectives Little (Bryan Tyree Henry) and Noreilli (Jeanine
Serralles) show up they have a very hard time buying her story, mostly
because Alistair also appears with them, and with his very alive wife in
Jane in tow. There's one thing, though: she's now a completely
different woman (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh).
It's at this point when Anna has to seriously confront her own
mental well being and sanity, which poses many questions at audience
members: Did she truly
witness a grisly murder perpetrated by Alistair against his real wife?
If so, which Jane is the real wife?
Or, is everything that Anna saw just a figment of her drug
THE WOMAN IN THE
WINDOW was directed by Joe Wright, who has made many films that I've
greatly admired, from period pieces like ATONEMENT
and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE to
the terribly underrated action thriller HANNA
(I'm willing to turn a blind eye and forget the one mediocre blip on his
resume in his laughably terrible Peter Pan reboot PAN).
I think that this newest film allowed the filmmaker to work within
a Hitchcockian sandbox, and, to be fair, THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW never
hides the fact that it's aggressively referencing REAR WINDOW and other
Hitchcock flicks throughout (hell, the first images in the film are shots
from Hitch's films on Anna's TV screen).
And, in its defense, THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW is not the first REAR
WINDOW knock off to come out of Hollywood and it has compelling ideas at
its core about the nature of a reliable narrator/protagonist, not to
mention whether or not Anna is in full grasp of actual reality or has just
succumbed to the worst type of nightmarish delusions.
Then there's the added meta quality of the story in terms of a
unwell woman that has decided to fully segregate herself from everyone and
everything in the outside world and is essentially in a self-imposed
indefinite quarantine (granted, the film was made well before the current
pandemic kicked in and went through a dreadful post-production and release
fiasco, so the real world analogies it conjures are purely coincidental).
fundamental issues at play with THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW is that the
modestly good elements that the film offers up in the opening stages
become completely undone when it comes to basic execution.
Worse yet is that the answers to all of the tantalizing queries
that the script poses are never once satisfyingly answered, with
everything hurtling towards a monumentally ill conceived and horrifically
violent final act that seems like it was a beyond obvious product of some
hasty, eleventh hour reshoots. THE
WOMAN IN THE WINDOW is all about superficial teases: tons of build-up and
anticipation of what's to come, only to have none of that paid off in any
rewarding manner. When the
curtains (ahem!) are pulled on all of the narrative secrets - and after an
awful lot of red herrings are thrown at viewers - the final end results
are woefully anti-climatic and culminate on a whimper instead of a roar.
When I sat through the final 20 minutes of this film - which owes
more to B-grade mad slasher/serial killer flicks than it does the work of
Hitchcock - I was frankly kind of shocked.
Very few modern thrillers made by solid and established directors
go completely bonkers and fly off the logic rails as badly as THE WOMAN IN
the absolute embarrassment of acting riches on display here, I was equally
shocked to discover that all of these acclaimed thespians feel like
they've all been airlifted in from totally different genre films
altogether. There's no
performance symmetry here at all. Oldman
is one of our greatest living acting treasures, but he's so embarrassingly
histrionic and in pure obnoxious camera mugging mode here that I never
felt that his character was a grounded entity. Jennifer Jason Leigh and Julianne Moore are given a
potentially meatier role (or...roles...?) to play here, but are given so
little screentime that it seems like a horribly misappropriation of
talent. Adams might be the
only actor here that seems to be giving a damn and fully attempts to
invest herself in her very tricky role.
Too much over-acting would have made Anna a hopeless caricature,
whereas underplaying her wouldn't accurately evoke this woman's obvious
emotional suffering and unraveling mental state.
It's great that Adams does small wonders here in never fully
tipping off whether Anna is to be trusted or is just nuttier than a
proverbial fruitcake. What
does her good work in, though, is that Anna never fully materializes as a
likeable heroine that invites audience sympathy or rooting interest.
Actually, there's so very few likeable characters that permeate the
film that it becomes almost impossible to care about what happens to
The writing was
clearly on the wall for THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW from the beginning.
It was shot years ago and scheduled to be theatrically released by
20th Century Pictures back in 2019, but then poor test screenings led to
multiple reshoots and a release delay to May of 2020.
Wright's picture was then delayed because of the pandemic and also
by Disney acquiring 20th Century Fox.
Very few films these days can claim they were the victim of cruel
circumstances in being affected by disastrous early audience reactions, a
pandemic and a massive corporate merger.
However, that can't be used to defend what a half baked and largely
unfulfilling thriller that we have here, and THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW, in
its current form, barely feels worthy of a mass theatrical release.
It's no wonder that this once would-be piece of Oscar bait was
unceremoniously dumped on Netflix a few weeks ago.