The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Netflix] - THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Netflix] - THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW

the woman in the window review
An agoraphobic shut-in witnesses a murder, but nobody believes her.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Joe Wright

Starring: Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Anthony Mackie, Fred Hechinger, Wyatt Russell, Brian Tyree Henry, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Julianne Moore

the woman in the window poster

Movies like Body Double, Road Games and Disturbia have successfully managed to rework the template of Alfred Hitchcock's classic thriller Rear Window. Others like the recent The Girl on the Train have floundered in attempting to draw inspiration from the Master of Suspense. It's into this latter category that director Joe Wright's troubled adaptation of AJ Finn's novel The Woman in the Window falls.

Opening with Hitchcock's film playing on a TV in the apartment of its heroine, Wright's movie certainly isn't trying to hide its influence. In fact, thanks to said gogglebox, we're presented with numerous clips from the sort of classic thrillers Wright is hoping to ape here – Otto Preminger's Laura, Hitchcock's Spellbound, Delmer Daves' Dead Reckoning – though curiously not the movie Wright's film owes the heaviest debt to, Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (and unlike say, the protagonist of Dario Argento's Do You Like Hitchcock?, here our heroine's obsession with old movies never plays into the plot).

the woman in the window review

Like that 1938 film (still the most successful example of a screen translation of the classic "Vanishing Lady" urban legend), The Woman in the Window sees its heroine, agoraphobic shut-in Anna (a dressed down and dowdy Amy Adams), befriend a woman, Jane Russell (Julianne Moore rehashing her brassy Bostonian shtick from TV sitcom 30 Rock), who subsequently goes missing.

As this storyline is wont to go, everyone denies ever seeing Jane. The twist here is that, Rear Window style, Anna witnessed Jane's murder from across the street. Then, just as we recently saw in another bad thriller, George Clooney's Suburbicon, the murdered Julianne Moore is replaced by another woman, though here it's not Moore playing a second character, but rather Jennifer Jason Leigh who claims to be Jane Russell. Leigh's role is particularly thankless, as she exists to speak the words "I'm Jane Russell" and little else.

the woman in the window review

The main suspect is Russell's sinister husband. He's played by Gary Oldman, who clearly can't be bothered to make any effort here, and honestly, who can blame him? It reaffirms Oldman's growing status as the worst great actor working today. He seems to be channeling David Thewlis here, but he never quite nails Thewlis's unique sneer. A secondary suspect is Anna's tenant David (Wyatt Russell), a womanising singer-songwriter who lives in her basement and is prone to temper tantrums. Or perhaps Anna is imagining all this herself, or maybe she even killed Jane. Ultimately, the movie seems to roll a dice to decide who's responsible, leading to a laughably terrible climax that would be more at home in a Scream sequel.

The Woman in the Window's production troubles have been well-documented, with writer Tony Gilroy brought in for an uncredited rewrite to try and make sense of playwright Tracy Letts' script (Letts also appears as Anna's psychiatrist). Whatever additions Gilroy made, they sure didn't fix anything. As you might expect from Letts, the film has a theatrical feel, and it's drowning in exposition, with several cheap devices employed to allow Anna to verbalise her state of mind, such as her meetings with her shrink and phone conversations with her estranged husband (Anthony Mackie).

the woman in the window review

Wright's film may well serve film professors who wish to contrast it with the brilliance of Rear Window. While Hitchcock uses his camera to tell the story, Wright relies on clunky dialogue. Watch the opening of Hitchcock's film, in which we get to know the residents of the apartments across the street from Jimmy Stewart by simply observing them. Then watch the scene near the beginning of Wright's movie, in which Anna tells her shrink about the various people she's been essentially spying on. Hitchcock SHOWS us what we need to see, while Wright TELLS us what we need to hear. That's because Hitchcock was a visual storyteller while Wright, while being something of a visual stylist, is clueless as to how to tell a story with images. Sure, there are lots of gimmicky visual touches here, but none of them actually serve to advance the narrative. Tell me again why Brian De Palma can't find work in Hollywood?

The only bright spark here is Adams, who, God love her, really does her best to add some depth to the proceedings. As we saw with Emily Blunt in The Girl on the Train, here we have an actress delivering a performance the film doesn't deserve. Just as Anna is advised to forget everything she believes she saw, you're best pretending you never witnessed this disaster.

The Woman in the Window is on Netflix now.

2021 movie reviews