The Woman in the Window

When the Russell family moves into a Manhattan brownstone, they become a focal point for the alcoholic, pill-popping agoraphobic child psychologist, Anna Fox (Amy Adams), who lives across the street.  She is surprised to really enjoy the company of the garrulous Jane Russell (Julianne Moore) one afternoon, the two guzzling wine, and is impressed by Jane’s polite 15 year-old son Ethan (Fred Hechinger, "Eighth Grade," "News of the World"). One night she witnesses what appears to be Jane’s murder, but when another woman (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is presented as ‘Jane Russell,’ nobody believes “The Woman in the Window.”

Laura's Review: C-

A.J. Finn's 2018 bestseller was part of the wave of ‘problematic female witness’ novels that followed the huge success of ‘Gone Girl,’ (see ‘The Girl on the Train,’ etc.), a mini-trend that relied too heavily on outrageous plot twists that were either all too easy to see coming or completely off the map, so intent on pulling the rug out from underneath us recognizable human behavior became secondary.  Director Joe Wright ("Atonement," "The Darkest Hour") has made a valiant attempt to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear with his A-list cast and overtly theatrical production, but screenwriter Tracy Letts, who also stars as Anna’s psychiatrist Dr. Landy, has undermined the first of the novel’s two big reveals by streamlining aspects of Anna’s routine yet indulged the gothic Grand Guignol of its over-the-top climax.  The production itself (designed by “Birdman’s” Kevin Thompson) is handsome, Dr. Fox’s beautiful old home shrouded in gloom, a spiral staircase connecting its multiple floors cross-sected for the climax.  Wright uses stage techniques to heighten the drama and Anna’s film noir fandom for cinematic expression of her psychological state.  Composer Danny Elfman picks up on the Hitchcock cues with a Herrmannesque score.

But with a cast like this, it is disappointing that so few performances stand out and that one central one is badly miscast.  The deglammed Adams is fine in the lead, albeit somewhat one note, making Moore’s brief, colorful appearance a welcome distraction.  As Alistair Russell, Gary Oldman is loud and threatening whereas Jennifer Jason Leigh barely registers but for one shock confrontation featured in the film’s trailer.  Hechinger, who should be charming us along with Anna, fails to do so.  As Anna’s basement tenant David, Wyatt Russell is so hinky and unsympathetic to his landlady’s issues, we wonder why she ever allowed him to move in, but Brian Tyree Henry balances sympathy with skepticism skillfully as Detective Little (in sharp contrast to Jeanine Serralles’ curt partner).

But above all, “The Woman in the Window” suffers most because of its source material.  If the novel is your cup of tea, rest assured the adaptation is faithful.

Robin's Review: C-

I have to say that I did not expect that a movie starring Amy Adams and a supporting cast of Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Anthony Mackie, Brian Tyree Henry and Wyatt Russell (son of Kurt and Goldie) that rips off/pays homage to “Rear Window (1954).” Instead of Jimmy Stewart as a hotshot combat photographer laid up in his apartment with a broken leg, we have Amy Adams as Anna Fox, a pill-popping, booze-swilling woman suffering from agoraphobia who sees a murder in the apartment across the street from her window.

That does not sound like a bad idea for a movie, but director Joe Wright and scripter Tracy Letts, adapting the A.J. Finn novel, make a hack of it. My problem is we have a high powered and talented cast given a screenplay that treats all of its characters as two-dimensional cardboard figures. An inept sleight of hand brings Julianne Moore in as Jane, Anna’s over-wrought new neighbor, only to change her to Jennifer Jason Leigh, pushing the “plot” forward.

What a waste of talented people, from director to writer to actors, and it makes me wonder who was actually in charge here. It certainly was not the director, writer or actors.

Netflix premieres "The Woman in the Window" on 5/14/21.