Is Amy Adams' Netflix thriller The Woman in the Window worth watching?

·3-min read
Photo credit: Melinda Sue Gordon - Netflix
Photo credit: Melinda Sue Gordon - Netflix

The Woman in the Window never tries to hide what it's emulating: it opens with shots of Rear Window's protagonist, LB "Jeff" Jefferies. But unlike the Hitchcock thriller it so clearly tries to be, Amy Adams' thriller is a colourful but hollow rehash.

The film stars Adams as the agoraphobic Dr Anna Fox, a child psychologist who finds herself keeping tabs on the picture-perfect family across the street through the windows of her New York City brownstone.

Her life is turned upside down when she inadvertently witnesses a brutal crime. Based on the gripping, best-selling novel and adapted by Tracy Letts, shocking secrets are revealed and nothing and no one is what they seem.

Photo credit: Melinda Sue Gordon - Netflix
Photo credit: Melinda Sue Gordon - Netflix

It's hard to do something that has already been done so well — Hitchcock is known for pulling the rug out from under his viewers, subverting expectations and stuffing his films with talent. Unfortunately, while The Woman in the Window succeeds in the last task, it fails dramatically with the others.

Perhaps it would have been better served if we didn't know one of the twists (yes, The Woman in the Window has multiple twists!) from the beginning, which is that the woman Anna sees murdered is... not the woman she assumed she was? Jane Russell (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is alive and well, and no one knows who the dead woman (played by Julianne Moore) is.

Photo credit: Melinda Sue Gordon - Netflix
Photo credit: Melinda Sue Gordon - Netflix

It's unsurprising when you learn that The Woman in the Window went through extensive reshoots, editing, and sat in development hell for two years before landing on Netflix, home of the trashy thriller.

The problem is that The Woman in the Window doesn't want to be a trashy thriller, it wants to be an erotic, psychological thriller and as such it's neither.

This isn't a fault of the cast per se. Despite her limited screen time, Moore does a scene-stealing job. Adams does a better job at playing an unhinged woman in this than she did in Hillbilly Elegy, but the character is written into a 'crazy woman' corner that the movie doesn't care to examine.

Photo credit: Melinda Sue Gordon - Netflix
Photo credit: Melinda Sue Gordon - Netflix

Equally, the teenager Ethan presents perhaps as a child with some kind of developmental challenge, but the film doesn't explore that, nor does it dispel whatever assumption the audience is going to make about him. Whether this was a deliberate choice or an accidental oversight, it remains one of the lingering discomforts from the film.

Gary Oldman as the potentially abusive and definitely controlling father and husband is genuinely threatening, his presence both troubling but also comical, only because the whole thing is a bit comical. At no point does his character express any emotion other than rage, and his motivations are totally unclear until the very end, which we imagine is meant to heighten suspense but ends up as just one more confusing element.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

In fact, there is no suspense, nor any real tension. The Woman in the Window signposts every twist and turn with a huge neon light, and the answer to the question of what murder Anna truly witnessed is handily explained in a lacklustre denouement delivered by the one character who seemingly has no stake in the answer.

It's not the worst thriller in the world – but in a way, that's worse. It's not one you can laugh at, it's just... a bit of nothing, which is a waste of its talented cast, its potential, and its budget.

The Woman in the Window is out now on Netflix

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