Director: Joe Wright
Date: May 14, 2021
R | 1 hour 40 minutes
To say that the production of “The Woman in the Window” was troubling would be an understatement. The 2018 bestseller of the same name was pseudonymously written by A.J. Finn, revealed to be controversial author Daniel Mallory. Mallory was the subject of a sensational 2019 New Yorker article which proved his claims of suffering from a brain tumor, losing his mother to cancer, losing his brother to suicide, and receiving a doctorate from Oxford University to be false.
Fox 2000 Pictures purchased the rights to Finn’s novel in 2016 and began lining up an all star cast with acclaimed filmmaker Joe Wright (“Pride and Prejudice,” “Atonement”) attached to direct. Test screenings proved to be poor for the movie and Walt Disney Studios, which acquired Fox 2000, ordered reshoots — much to the chagrin of star and screenwriter Tracy Letts. Reshoots and the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the film multiple times, but it finally saw the light of day May 14 on Netflix.
It’s unfortunate the movie itself is not nearly as compelling as its dramatic journey to the big screen.
Amy Adams (“Arrival,” “The Fighter”) stars as Anna Fox, an agoraphobic child psychologist living in a stunning New York City apartment. After growing weary of her new neighbors, the Russells, she begins to spy on them. One night, she witnesses a horrible crime and starts to doubt everyone and everything around her. Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Anthony Mackie, Brian Tyree Henry and Wyatt Russell round out a star-studded cast as various people in Anna’s life.
It’s no secret this movie is inspired by the classic mysteries of Alfred Hitchcock. Its heaviest inspiration, “Rear Window,” is playing on the TV in the opening minutes. There are many scenes of Fox voyeuristically spying on her neighbors with a camera like L.B. Jeffries. However, whereas “Rear Window” was a thrilling and entertaining romp, “The Woman in the Window” is nonsensical and unintentionally comedic.
The film attempts to create a claustrophobic environment by never leaving Fox’s home. What Wright, Letts and Tony Gilroy — who was hired by Disney to write the reshoots — forget to do is create suspense through the screenplay. Wright tries to keep the viewer on their heels with abrupt edits, misleads and close ups, but these aspects prove confusing. The director is able to capture Fox’s home beautifully, which is about the only good thing that can be said about this Hitchcock ripoff.
Adams goes for it all, but ends up acting like a caricature of a Gillian Flynn heroine. She’s quickly approaching Glenn Close territory with zero wins despite six Oscar nominations — and it’s safe to say she won’t be taking a statuette for this performance.
The rest of the star cast, who have more than 10 Oscar nominations between them, is wasted. They’re all given underwritten roles that often feel like they were originally created for other movies.
Leigh barely utters two lines of dialogue, Mackie is only in one scene, Oldman hams it up in the three or four scenes he’s in and Russell seems like he’s doing an extension of John Walker from his Marvel TV show. It’s a shame that Moore — one of the most talented actresses of her generation — does not get an opportunity to shine.
The climax of this movie deserves a special mention. For some reason, Wright decides to employ shoddy CGI and horrible action choreography seemingly out of a low budget horror movie. There’s a big reveal in this climax, which is complete nonsense and will leave the viewer wondering how bad the original ending had to be for this to be considered the good ending. The sheer amount of unintentional comedy in this sequence makes it the most entertaining part of the movie.
It’s been reported Jake Gyllenhaal will star as Mallory in a Netflix limited series about the controversial author’s false claims. One can only hope this series is better — even though it won’t take a ton of effort to do that. At 94 minutes, the movie is not a slog but is unable to keep the viewer engaged. It’s bereft of any suspense and squanders a golden opportunity to make something special with its stellar cast.
Instead of watching this Hitchcock wannabe, fire up “Rear Window” for excellent thrills and suspense done right.
“The Woman in the Window,” rated R, is now streaming on Netflix.