The Woman in the Window‘s title is strangely accurate, not for anything that happens in this sloppy, uninteresting regurgitation of Rear Window. For a couple of years the film has been like a woman staring blankly outside of a window as the world passes it by, unsure of what happens next. Directed by Joe Wright, the epitome of a 50/50 filmmaker with this landing on the ass end of that equation, this wannabe knotty thriller should’ve opened nearly two years ago until people actually watched it and the now-defunct 20th Century Fox rethought that idea. Reshoots followed, with Tony Gilroy coming in to save the day (the changes were extensive to Tracy Letts’ script) but so did limbo when Disney acquired the studio, only for them to dump it into Netflix’s lap.
If only someone had shut that damn window tight. The Woman in the Window is an adaptation of AJ Finn’s bestselling novel, a thriller in the Gone Girl mold that was rightfully seen as a potential Oscar contender. It’s not. Amy Adams, a tremendous Oscar-winning actress giving a toilet of a performance, plays agoraphobic psychologist Dr. Anna Fox. She’s a capable lady, or so it seems; her Harlem home is large, well-decorated and well-lit; and sure as Hell a truckload of folks come traipsing through her place all of the time. She even has a mysterious roommate (Wyatt Russell) who lives in the basement. So it’s not as if Anna can’t stand to be around people. Her agoraphobia comes from a past tragedy that once had her suicidal.
Characters flit in and out of Amy’s orbit without leaving much of an impression. There’s Anthony Mackie (Falcon and Winter Soldier reunion!!! >sigh< If only.) as Amy’s husband, who she talks with on the phone when she’s not busy downing meds to ease her anxiety. There’s also the Russell clan, new neighbors that Amy can’t seem to stay away from. There’s the young son Ethan (Fred Hechinger), who takes a strange interest in her; Gary Oldman is the boy’s demanding father, while Julianne Moore sweeps in like a welcome gust of fresh air as the matriarch, Jane Russell. She and Anna become good friends over drinks and female bonding, but when Anna witnesses Jane’s murder across the street it triggers a whodunnit that you’ll have a hard time caring about.
Despite Wright and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel’s energetic camerawork lightening up Anna’s Harlem townhouse, the characters have no spark of personality at all. Adams goes way over-the-top, and not in a good way, in depicting Anna’s fragile psyche. Gary Oldman, in a role that should be cake for someone like him, can’t manage to have any fun at all, or exude any real menace. This is one of those performances that he seems disinteresed in giving, and while he’s a great actor those are more frequent than some might care to admit. Only Moore seems to be enjoying herself at all and perhaps it’s because she’s got the smallest part.
Little is done to make us care for Anna beyond her hysterics. As the police (with Brian Tyree Henry a standout as a sensitive detective) refuse to believe her story, and another woman (Jennifer Jason Leigh, utterly wasted) claiming to be Jane Russell shows up, Anna melts down but there’s no substance behind it. Adams, try as she might, isn’t given enough to convince us she’s genuinely suffering from mental illness or truly grappling with grief.
Red herrings are in abundance but when none of them make an impression, what is the viewer supposed to do? Wright mistakenly drops references to classic films from Hitchcock and Preminger, as if by putting The Woman in the Window next to them it will be seen in the same light. Good luck with that. All it really does is highlight this film’s glaring weaknesses, and make you wonder how so much talent and promise could go so wrong.
The Woman in the Window opens on Netflix on May 14th.