On paper, The Woman In The Window should have been a slam dunk. Particularly if it had been released last year. The entire world was confined to their homes during Lockdown with nothing to do but spy on their neighbours.
It is directed by a BAFTA-nominated director, adapted by a Pultizer Prize winner and stars multiple Oscar winners and nominees.
An agoraphobic woman living alone in New York begins spying on her new neighbors, only to witness a murder. Only when she reports it to the police, there is no evidence of a crime. Is she imagining things or has she placed herself in the sights of a killer?
If this all sounds very Rear Window-esque, you would be correct. Prior to this film the best film or show inspired by the Hitchcock classic has been the episode of The Simpsons where Bart spies on Ned Flanders. And now? Well, it still is The Simpsons. Joe Wright tries to capture some of that magic that made Rear Window such an enjoyable hit. Unfortunately this one does not go off without a Hitch.
It is obvious that a film is not doing its job to hold your attention when you find yourself wondering how on earth someone can afford an entire Manhattan Brownstone when they are living on their own, not working and only have the rental income from an unemployed singer-songwriter staying in her basement.
The issue is that the plot is just far too derivative of other thrillers that have come before. The novel on which the film is based was part of an influx in genre fiction following the success of The Girl On The Train. These novels featured a series of mysteries involving a combination of Girls or Women either In or On an object or location. Perhaps it plays out differently on the page but once you are familiar with the narrative tropes, tricks, and red herrings, it is easy to guess where the plot is headed. Even an agrophobic wouldn’t need to go outside to see the plot twists coming a mile away.
For a film that due to the protagonist’s condition is set entirely in one location, there is never a real sense of understanding the scale and layout of Anna’s house and daily routine as a shut in. Joe Wright, as demonstrated in previous films and in little aesthetic flourishes here and there, is capable of delivering cinematic moves of unparalled delight. What this needed was one of his trademark tracking shots through the entire house. Similar to what David Fincher did in Panic Room.
This means that the narrative heavy lifting must be done by Amy Adams. An actress of immense talent, as evidence by her six Academy Award nominations, she is hampered by a script that gives her little to do beyond drinking, taking pills and freaking out at images she sees in the window. It never allows her to truly explore the pain she is dealing with or understand her struggle with the outside world. Instead it is more focused on the familiar unreliable narrator-trope of “did she see what she saw?” and going down the predictable whodunnit route.
Sadly for The Woman In The Window it just makes for pane-fully dull viewing.
The Woman In The Window is available to watch on Netflix now.
Director: Joe Wright
Stars: Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore, Wyatt Russell
Runtime: 100 minutes