The Woman in the Window - Movie Review
An All Star Cast - A Best Selling Novel - What Could Go Wrong
WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) -
What do you get when you have a wildly successful bestseller, an A list director, a Pulitzer Prize winning author and a cast that has fifteen Oscar nominations between them- A MESS, that’s what you get!
The Woman in the Window, 20th Century Fox’s expensive production of A.J. Finn’s bestselling novel was originally intended as a theatrical wide-release, then test audiences hit, and then COVID hit- it’s hard to say which did more damage. Fox, seeing the writing on the wall, after some much needed reshoots, sold the rights to Netflix and now you can stream it at home, but buyer beware. (even if it is free with a subscription.)
Six-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams plays Anna Fox, a child psychiatrist who is an agoraphobic, neurotic, prescription pill-popping, wine guzzling mess, living all alone in an enormous three story brownstone in Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood. However, there is no neighborhood flavor in the movie, because most of the film takes place inside the brownstone. Kudos to production designer Kevin Thompson and cinematographer Bruno Debonnel for the look of the film; it is fantastic, and by far the film’s greatest asset.
When new neighbors move in across the street, Anna’s naturally curious-some would call it nosey inclinations, kick in and she can’t help spying a little. Her therapist, played by the screenwriter, Tracy Letts, actually encourages this behavior as he thinks curiosity is a sign that Anna is coming out of her depression. Anna’s house bound deep lens snooping from across the street is a direct homage to Hitchcock’s Rear Window. Watching old films is a passion of Anna’s, and she has an enormous collection of DVD’s. We also see clips from Hitchcock’s psychoanalysis thriller Spellbound. Director Joe Wright uses visual references to this film, as well as visual and plot homage to Hitchcock’s Vertigo. This is nice for cinephiles and Hitchcock fans, but doesn’t add much to the plot and seems somewhat disconnected from Anna’s character development. But hey-the film looks great and is always visually interesting.
Visited by both the new neighbors’ son, vulnerable, quirky Ethan (Fred Echinger) and dynamic, tell it like it is wife/mother Jane (Julianne Moore) Anna is less lonely, but now very suspicious of the controlling Russell patriarch, Alastair, played by Gary Oldman. When she is convinced she has witnessed a felony and detectives descend into her dark, depressing house, we learn the extent of her neurosis and the truth about her family. She claims her husband (a wasted Anthony Mackie-but what a gorgeous voice) and daughter (Mariah Bozeman) are estranged and separated, living, conveniently at another location. To complicate things and reinforce that Anna is delusional, Alistair claims his wife is another completely different woman played by unrecognizable (work?) Jennifer Jason Leigh. Her part is nothing short of a cameo-so why did they need her to play it? Throw in a creepy, volatile and criminal downstairs tenant, who also serves as an ancillary suspect – (the over the top Wyatt Russell) and the plot thickens, and thickens and thickens. YAWN.
The film just tries to be too many things: a serious, disturbing meditation on mental illness, fueled by guilt and grief, a plucky at home woman turned detective and ultimately a Grand Guignol psycho-with-a knife slasher film (almost silly). Along the way, instead of leading bread crumbs to a finale that makes sense, it is more like a game of hopscotch, skipping over clues or story points that might make the climax more believable. What exactly happened in Boston and how is that important? And what is with the plethora of expository dump speeches--”Okay so then this happened.”
All actors involved should keep this off their resume, especially Gary Oldman who is really bad. It’s hard to believe this is the same actor that turned in an Oscar winning performance in Darkest Hour. Even the ever reliable Amy Adams misses the mark, although it isn’t her fault. She tries valiantly; it is the convoluted material that hinders her. She isn’t bad; she just isn’t her usual great. The one exception is the magnificent Julianne Moore. She has a small part, but she makes the most of it, she rises above the material and is incredibly vivid.
Overbaked, confusing, and sometimes nonsensical, The Woman in the Window is not a good movie; however through sheer effort and expense it is still watchable. How that happened, I do not know.
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