The Woman in the Window review – reused and regurgitated Psycho in the Window

May 14, 2021
M.N. Miller 0
Film Reviews, Netflix
3

Summary

The Woman in the Window is a thriller for the casual film fan, not the aficionado. It works, just not as well as it should.

3

Summary

The Woman in the Window is a thriller for the casual film fan, not the aficionado. It works, just not as well as it should.

This review of the Netflix film The Woman in the Window does not contain spoilers — the thriller will be released on the streaming service on May 14, 2021. 

Joe Wright’s The Woman in the Window owes a great deal to almost any Alfred Hitchcock movie ever made, particularly in its tone, visuals, and mood. Then again, you can’t blame Wright because the source material by A.J. Finn is a straight rip-off of those films. One being Rear Window, and the other, to a lesser extent, Psycho.

You have to wonder if the film and the creators paid for their misgivings since the film and its creators have endured so much controversy. The Woman in the Window was originally meant to be released in theatres in October 2019 rather than on Netflix. Instead, the film was delayed to the following May for reshoots. Terry Gilroy was hired to rewrite Tracy Lett’s script (both accomplished writers with very different sensibilities). What else could happen? To top that off, Finn came under fire for telling an extensive amount of lies about his career and even having cancer. He even tried to use his diagnosed Bipolar II Disorder as an excuse, which is an insult to anyone who suffers from it. For a man who can weave such a complex tale in real life, you’d think he would have the ability to write a book without having to have a Hitchcock marathon on TCM.

The film stars Amy Adams as Dr. Anna Fox, who is stuck in her house. In the book, the character was healing from injuries (I’m surprised Finn didn’t credit her with the last name, Jeffries). In the film, she is agoraphobic, afraid to go outside. Now, she is separated from her husband Ed (Anthony Mackie) and her daughter Olivia (Mariah Bozeman) because she is incapable of taking care of her child. So, to pass the time, she spies on her neighbors (some would say it is better than any television show).

From her window, she spies on the Russell Family, who just moved into a brownstone across the way. They “seem” to be the perfect American family. She befriends the boy, Ethan (News of the World‘s Fred Hechinger), and his mother, Jane (Julianne Moore). After an enjoyable glass of wine and a good conversation, Jane leaves for the night. That’s not the last time she will see her again, however. Later that night, Anna hears a scream. She sees Jane, the woman in the window, crying, bleeding, and holding her stomach. Anna calls the cops (Bryan Tyree Henry and Jeanine Serralles), who present her with a problem. They introduce Mr. Russell (Gary Oldman) and his wife (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh), a woman who looks nothing like the one she had a delightful evening with.

The film surprisingly works for a while, toeing the line of a suspenseful narrative and has a sprinkle of downright horror. The third act is shockingly violent, and I was taken aback by an attack involving a gardening tool. Not by the act itself so much as by who they let it happen to. With so many actors in the film, anyone could be involved, including the protagonist, so there is genuine tension. However, the psychological label this film is given fits any film nowadays where the hero of the story ends up in a finger-pointing contest. The script, like the book, is not as smart as it thinks it is but builds enough tension to be effective.

Netflix’s The Woman in the Window has problems in its third act, for the simple reason that the source material steals so much from Rear Window it had to change the reason why the good doctor was stuck in her house to cover up a secondary plot point. Yet, Hitchcock’s work has been reused and regurgitated in so many ways that this is nothing new. As a result, there are no real surprises in Joe Wright’s adaptation.

However, this is a thriller for the casual film fan, not the cinephile. It works, just not as well as it should. Nevertheless, it has a star-studded cast, and Wright’s steady hand builds enough tension to earn this murder mystery a (very) mild recommendation.

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