Netflix UK film review: The Woman in the Window (2021)
Female-led suspense thriller vibes4
Direction and execution3
Victoria Curatolo | On 15, May 2021
Director: Joe Wright
Cast: Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Anthony Mackie
Watch The Woman in the Window online in the UK: Netflix UK
A “woman on the verge” has always been a familiar theme that has dominated the arts. An unhinged female character met with a traumatic past and/or addiction problems seems to be on the memo for the majority of female-led thrillers coming our way, and The Woman in the Window is no different.
The film stars Amy Adams as Anna Fox, a child psychologist suffering from agoraphobia who turns to alcohol and prescription drugs after separating from her husband and daughter. Unable to face the world outside, she turns to the inhabitants of the brownstone buildings that reside across the street as a form of entertainment and intrigue. After The Russells move in, she briefly befriends the family’s wife and mother, Jane (Julianne Moore), who visits Anna’s house, unearthing an erratic display of secrets, confessions and paranoia. She subsequently sees Jane being murdered through her window, but when Jane’s husband (Gary Oldman) comes to greet Anna, he brings along his wife, Jane (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who is very much alive.
The Woman in the Window is a project that sought controversy from the offset. Its penned author, AJ Finn, wrote the novel back in 2018 to warm reviews and a No 1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list. And while its success was no doubt gained from its page-turning intrigue, which followe a similar line of female-led thrillers such as The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl, the author received backlash after it was revealed that he lied about numerous aspects of his life in order to gain notoriety (these include having lied about attending Oxford University, his mother dying from cancer and his brother committing suicide – none of which occurred). Finn is yet to pen another novel.
The film has similarly seen a series of issues from the get-go. Fox 2000 Pictures obtained the rights to the novel back in 2016, and in March 2018 it was announced that Joe Wright would direct the feature with Adams in the lead role, with production to start later that year. Originally set for cinematic release in October 2019, 20th Century Fox was subsequently bought by Disney and requested a series of reshoots and rewrites after the film failed to grab initial test audiences. A new release date of May 2020 was set and would later be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic – hence why we are now only just being introduced to the feature, thanks to Netflix acquiring the distribution rights.
The Woman in the Window is a dull, confusing and repetitive thriller that fails to leave you on the edge of your seat. Its execution is sufficiently muddled while clearly emulating notable thrillers such as Rear Window (1954) and Copycat (1995). The film fails to generate the traditional sense of claustrophobia often seen in similar narratives, and instead merely follows a woman falling asleep on the sofa watching old Hollywood classics and running around her very spacious and privileged multi-million dollar New York home. Scenes with weird camera movements, juxtapositions and unusual light installations are randomly interjected for no apparent reason.
The film’s biggest disappointment, however, is regrettably Adams’ flat performance. She spends the majority of the film resembling Carrie White’s mother and seeming incoherently confused. You find yourself not caring whatsoever what happened to Jane Russell, just as you find yourself not caring about the film’s protagonist and other characters, due to the messy, sloppy and lazy depiction of a mimicked Hitchcockian thriller. A plot that would ordinarily fulfil many moviegoers’ needs as an easy, fun and albeit predictable watch is substituted with flat, confusing and plain execution. This is even more confusing given the film’s esteemed actors, screenwriter (the usually celebrated Tracy Letts – later replaced by Tony Gilroy) and director.
The Woman in the Window is in no way as suspenseful or as alluring as the original novel. While the book is fairly predictable and in no ways original, it effectively does the job – the same sadly cannot be said for its screen adaptation.
The Woman in the Window (2021) is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.