The Woman in the Window was bounced around from date-to-date and then from cinema-to-Netflix, and you could’ve chalked that up to COVID.
But now we know it probably wasn’t, and the likely reason for its shuffle around was that everyone knew they had an ignominious dud on its hands. The Amy Adams star vehicle was billed as a psychological thriller but it’s neither thrilling nor very psychologically unnerving.
With a relentless commitment to bonkers twists – each as predictable as it is maddening – The Woman in the Window tries very hard at pretending to be what it wants to be, without ever getting close.
It’s a Hitchcock homage that is breathtakingly lightweight, never saying much about grief, trauma, voyeurism or deception, despite the fact the screenplay is written by Tracy Letts, a renowned playwright and actor who pulls double duty as an on-screen therapist.
Anna Fox (Adams) is a shut-in that lives alone in a large New York City townhouse. She has one tenant, David (Wyatt Russell), in her basement, who helps take out the garbage.
Anna has agoraphobia and even staring at her front door’s knob gives her the dizzies. She’s separated from her husband (Anthony Mackie), who has custody of their daughter, Liv (Mariah Bozeman).
Anna spends her days and nights drinking too much and watching old movies, including Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, from which The Woman in the Window is heavily borrowing.
She watches her neighbours live their lives from her window – hence the title – but her therapist (Letts) encourages her voyeurism because if she’s at least curious about what’s going on outside her self-imprisonment, then it means she’s getting better.
When a new family, the Russells, moves in across the road, she’s surprised to find little about them online. Then she meets the mother, Jane (Julianne Moore), with whom she has a boozy night of banter and confidences.
Later in the week, Anna hears a scream from across the way and sees Jane stabbed in the stomach during a fight. But when she calls the police, Jane appears, very much alive. Only it’s not the woman she met the other night (and is now played by Jennifer Jason Leigh).
The police (Brian Tyree Henry and Jeanine Serralles) don’t believe Anna, and Jane’s threatening husband Alistair (Gary Oldman) insists nothing is going on and that Anna must be a crazy cat lady mixing her prescription drugs with alcohol.
Is Anna being gaslighted or is there really something more nefarious going on?
That’s the question at the heart of the movie, except The Woman in the Window never infuses in itself enough paranoia to really make you wonder if there’s more to the eye.
Everything is telegraphed so don’t be surprised if you manage to pick the killer before the killing even takes place – it couldn’t be more obvious.
Adams does the best she can with Wright’s unimaginative and staid direction while others such as Oldman, Henry and especially Leigh are wasted, doing little more than standing still in ensemble scenes.
If The Woman in the Window had been campier or more over-the-top, really leaned into the messiness of its heroine, it would’ve at least been more entertaining.
As it is, it’s just a middling, predictable movie that feels like it left most of its personality on the cutting room floor.
The Woman in the Window is streaming now on Netflix
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