Cast: Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Anthony Mackie, Fred Hechinger, Wyatt Russell. Directed by Joe Wright.
Having been delayed several times, the release of The Woman in the Window seems all the stranger given that we’re now being able to leave our houses. Had it been released in January, this might have been a film for the our locked down times.
The Woman in the Window centres on Dr Anna Fox, an agoraphobic separated mother and child psychologist, who comes to suspect her neighbour has murdered his wife, but the proof and her sanity appear to be lacking.
It’s no surprise to learn that the film has been retooled, reshot and even had a new score added to it thanks to a lifeless Danny Elfman soundtrack. Joe Wright assembles one of the best casts of recent times, for a film that ultimately lets them down.
Adapting A.J. Finn’s bestseller, Tracy Letts (who cameos) shows no prowess with his dialogue here; both he and Wright struggle to wrestle the pacing into something that keeps you onboard. Neither seem equipped for the sort of thrillers that thrived in the 90s, and all too often the film doesn’t just nod to Hitchcock’s Rear Window but stops short of pulling out the DVD and telling you that’s what it is.
Wright appears to mistake Hitchcokian precision with just being tightly wound, and the film suffers from languid pacing. Its near two-hour runtime feels much longer because everything happens in episodes. Twists that should be shocking are obvious from the start, and no attempt is made to cover them up. It has two endings, thirty minutes apart, and neither of them satisfies.
The problem is, this film doesn’t want to conform to the thrillers it owes a debt to. Rear Window along with the 90s thrillers Single White Female, Pacific Heights, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, Unlawful Entry and Arlington Road all have to, at some point, make a decision one way or another. The Woman in the Window attempts to have both endings and neither work.
Wright’s direction is also all over the place, at some point stately and David Fincher-esque other times like a student film replete with cringe-inducing onscreen faux blood effects. The changing style makes you think that two different films set in the same building are occurring.
If you stick with it, it’s because of Amy Adams. Only an actress of her talent can make something this poor work, and even she mainly fails. Running around in nothing but an oversized shirt for half the runtime, the film never lets us really get to know her as a character.
Meanwhile, everyone else gets nothing to do, and characters act counter to who they are. Julianne Moore is too confrontational to convince as a friend, Wyatt Russell’s character changes personality on a dime. Both Brian Tyree Henry and Jeanine Serralles are laughable at cops who are awful at their job, and Gary Oldman decides he can’t be bothered (presumably because he made this in between two oscar fated movies) and so hams it up. Kudos must be given to Oldman for his overripe delivery of “cat leeeeeeedy”.
By the end, your patience will be tested and you’ll wonder if you were better off just rewatching a film like The Gift or Lakeview Terrace that did this kind of paranoia much better. As it stands, instead, we have a so-so thriller undone by the shoddy way in which it’s been made. That elusive Oscar will continue to be out of poor Amy’s grasp once more.