Amy Adams' much-anticipated psychological thriller had all the elements of real-life Hollywood drama " but strictly offscreen. Having suffered an unfortunate spate of events ever since Fox decided to adapt AJ Finn's novel of the same name, The Woman in the Window was unable to brush off its curse even after Netflix tried salvaging matters.
Fresh off the Gone Girl fandom, The Woman in the Window promised of a foolproof setup for an Oscar cinch, what with its stellar cast including grade-A names like Adams, Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore, Anthony Mackie, Brian Tyree Henry, and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Joe Wright came on board as director, while Tony Award winner Tracy Letts was put in charge of the screen adaptation.
But Adams' lack of the Midas' touch (that began with last year's unfortunate Hillbilly Elegy), seems to have percolated down this domain. With the flurry of reshoots and delays, one almost wonders if The Woman in the Window retained any of its earlier character that Wright so minutely infused into the subject matter.
Having wrapped up way back in 2018, the film follows Anna Fox, an agoraphobic woman, who lives through her voyeurism and survives because of her ample curiosity (read: intrusiveness) into her neighbours' activities. As the Russell family settle into the building opposite her apartment, a series of dangerous goings-on begin occurring. And as any hapless heroine in a psycho-thriller would, Anna finds herself smack in the middle of all the scary action.
But a word to the wise " The Woman in the Window disappoints right from the opening scene. Gargantuan hints in the name of Easter eggs are generously strewn across the film, to an extent where you would almost ask yourself if you are watching a spoof.
Still from The Woman in the Window. Image from Twitter
Anna's deteriorating mental health signals towards her unreliability as a witness to the crimes taking place around her (ala The Girl on the Train). As Anna journeys on towards convincing police authorities and herself, that her testimonies hold merit, the film completely loses grip on its audience.
Shoddy plot points are introduced to invoke a sense of "surprise," but all it ends up doing is pulling an already listless piece of narrative to the dungeons. Oldman's caliber as an actor is completely wasted in the film. Adams and Oldman in a single frame can easily make for cinema history on any given day, but on The Woman in the Window territory, it is just a crash course on ham acting (a distinct shudder runs down my spine even as I write this, it is that unbelievable). A particular scene that speaks to this miserable fact is when their characters get embroiled in a scream-off, all feisty and angry, but with a complete lack of authenticity.
Adams' otherwise subtle genius is magically transformed to overt, jumpy movements and shrill screeches that stand testament to the many lows within the one-and-a-half-hour feature.
Fred Hechinger's relative newness adds an element of freshness to the cast. His purported lost look and hesitant quiver in his voice make him a worthy subject to share screen space with Adams.
The only clear exception to the cast's otherwise uncaring acting is Julianne Moore. Her brief presence lights up the screen, making evident the fact that the Still Alice actress emotes with clinical precision. The fiery red mane compliments the life force that emanates from the veteran's eyes, and she completely sells the part of a terrified mother, desperate to cling to her only child.
Barring the weak acting and weaker script, the film has a few redeeming elements. The New York City apartment that Anna resides in has a personality of its own. Considering that it would essentially be the only space that Adams would inhabit throughout the film, production designer Kevin Thompson pumps heart into the sprawling house. The long French windows look enticing enough for anyone to go and sit across from it all day long. The scattered floors and dusty furniture feel lived-in and too worn, facts that would be obvious for a person battling agoraphobia. Muted greens and maroons of unkempt walls are contrasted with bright pink and blue hues, to bring about a cinematic richness.
Where The Woman in the Window seriously slumps is in the pathetic ending.
Predictable and rushed, the denouement is the weakest link in the whole film, especially since it checks neither boxes of gore or suspense. It is almost as if the mammoth crew behind the film were completely oblivious to the substandard piece of work they were developing, or worse off, went along with it despite the knowledge.
The "woman" in the window may actually force you to step out of her line of vision, with a simple click of an exit button. The trepidations that the film faced were just a trailer to the disaster that was the finished product. Sorry, Amy Adams, that one ought to hurt.
The Woman in the Window is streaming on Netflix.