The Woman in the Window Synopsis: Agoraphobic Dr. Anna Fox (Amy Adams) witnesses something she shouldn’t while keeping tabs on the Russell family, the seemingly picture-perfect clan that lives across the way. This discovery drives Anna down a path of shocking revelations, as her mental state leads her to question her preconceived notions. Anthony Mackie, Wyatt Russell, Gary Oldman, Brian Tyree Henry, Julianne Moore, and Jennifer Jason Leigh comprise the star-studded ensemble. Based on a novel of the same name.
COVID has caused an unprecedented backlog waiting to be discovered by content-hungry audiences. Some are seeing the light of day in their intended theatrical platform (Fast 9 and A Quiet Place 2), while others are adopting a myriad of innovative streaming rollouts (Black Widow and Cruella will premier in theaters and Disney+ simultaneously).
Then there are titles like the star-studded thriller The Woman in the Window. Clothed from the fabric of a potential blockbuster hit, this previous summer release was sold off to Netflix alongside a wave of other offshoot products (Paramount has sold off a majority of their recent catalog to streamers). Ironically enough, The Woman in the Window’s shockingly inept final product feels tailor-made for a disposable streaming release.
How can things go so wrong for a film with so much talent involved (the source material’s controversial past, poor test screenings, and a last-ditch reshoot effort is a good place to start)? While I have no affiliation to A.J. Finn’s original novel, this adaptation renders the material into a woefully overworked and downright insensitive detour into the serious subject matter. Tracy Letts (yes, that Tracy Letts) screenplay whirls around mental health degradation, substance abuse, and childhood trauma only to create a bloated concoction of ideas.
The loaded gun of topics feels extremely trivialized, forming a series of sensationalized plot beats that never address genuine struggles with their intended gravitas. Admittedly, it’s unfair to throw Letts under the bus completely, as who knows how many confused post-production moves led to this reduced final product. Director Joe Wright has achieved moments of brilliance during his career (Atonement and Hanna), but the poised visualizer drives this production without a clear map of intent. His final product feels choppy and undefined, lacking any meaningful momentum as wild plot turns are recklessly thrown the audience’s way.
Wright also shamelessly leans into the Hitchcock pastiche, a decision that elicits a few aesthetically pleasing frames of unease. Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel’s work excels when playing off the setting’s claustrophobia and warped reality, particularly in his framing of habitual TV programs or perspective zooms from Anna’s window viewpoint. That being said, the visual slickness largely doesn’t strike its intended effect under Wright’s tutelage. Every elaborate shot and screeching score note only work to make things less humanistic, eventually overworking the material to the point of sleezy theatrics.
Readers may be shocked that the star-studded cast hasn’t received a mention, but that’s largely due to the film’s lack of attention towards their immense skills. Amy Adams’ enduring talents easily rank as the film’s strongest asset, with the actress’ revealing performance cobbling a semblance of empathy together for Anna’s tortured persona. Outside of Adams, everyone else is standing around looking for something to do. Award-caliber talents like Brian Tyree Henry, Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore, and Anthony Mackie serve as minor cogs in a bombastic narrative (Mackie appears almost exclusively throw phone calls), while upcoming actor Fred Hechinger is horribly miscast as Anna’s autistic neighbor (when will Hollywood learn their lesson).
Aside from a shockingly asinine twist ending, The Woman in the Window strikes few memorable impressions from its plethora of poorly conceived decisions. I hate seeing so many talented people involved in an abysmal effort, but hopefully, this stands as a cautionary tale for what Hollywood shouldn’t prioritize in their crowd-pleasing thrillers.
The Woman in the Window debuts on Netflix on May 14th.
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